BOOK REVIEW

Clancy's 'Command Authority' long but a quick, timely read about Crimea


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Tom Clancy died in October. His last novel, "Command Authority," written with Mark Greaney, was published posthumously Dec. 3, but it seems to have been ripped from today's headlines, because the plot is built around a Russian invasion of the Crimea.

The "tell" that "Command Authority" is a work of fiction is that in it, the president of the United States anticipates the Russian aggression, and moves promptly, decisively and courageously to thwart it.


"COMMAND AUTHORITY: A JACK RYAN NOVEL"
By Tom Clancy with Mark Greaney.
Putnam ($29.95).

For the last time, we read about Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst in Mr. Clancy's first book, "The Hunt for Red October," who in the course of the next eight novels rose to become CIA director, vice president and president.

We also say goodbye to other familiar Clancy characters, such as John Clark, the former Navy SEAL in Vietnam turned super agent, who is getting mighty long in the tooth for an action hero, faithful sidekicks Ding Chavez and Sam Driscoll, and to Jack Ryan Jr., introduced in the later Clancy novels to do the derring-do now inappropriate for Dad.

As in all previous Clancy novels, the action is fast-paced, and exquisite attention is paid to how modern weapons work and how they are employed. "Command Authority" is 739 pages long but reads fast.

One of the action sequences concerns an assault on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Sevastopol, which resembles accounts of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on 9/11/2012.

Readers also will learn details about organized crime in Russia, and how it intersects with the natural-gas giant Gazprom and with the Russian government. A sequence in the book has Jack Jr. working as a financial analyst in London, picking up the trail of KGB money in Swiss banks his CIA analyst father had followed, fruitlessly, 30 years before.

The good guys can't prevent Valeri Volodin, who eerily resembles Russian President Vladimir Putin, from taking the Crimea. But they thwart his plans to reassemble the Soviet Union, beginning with gobbling up the rest of Ukraine.

"We didn't lose, Jack. We just didn't win," Jack Sr. tells Jack Jr. at the end of the book. That is, alas, a happier ending than we're likely to see in real life.

Every Clancy novel is worth reading, this one especially so, because there will never be another.

 


Jack Kelly is a Post-Gazette columnist (jkelly@post-gazette.com).

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