Threat Vector – Review

Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney. Threat Vector. New York: Putnam, 2012. Print.

Not too long ago I wrote a review of another Tom Clancy novel in which I said, “Clancy gets it.” Sometimes we know Clancy gets it because he imagines a certain scenario in one of his novels, and after it is published something similar actually happens. In his 1991 The Sum of All Fears, a network of jihadists blow up a football stadium during an NFL playoff game. OK, in the real world, they did in the tallest building in New York City on a significant jihadist anniversary ten years later, but the idea was not that different.

Parts of Threat Vector read like last week’s news, literally. A young hotshot computer programmer/hacker with a top secret security clearance who works for a high tech government contractor defects to Hong Kong with a lot of classified information to share with the Chinese. No, it is not Snowden; this book was written a year ago. But Clancy saw vulnerabilities again, and some of them have become reality.

There is a lot more than this Chinese sympathizer. Typically Clancy’s novels cover a lot of geography and involve a lot of people. Threat Vector is no different. There is a group of former Libyan security officers and Ghaddafi loyalists now working as hired guns in Turkey. We actually met a few in Locked On. There is an American computer geek who gets caught in a Chinese honey trap. There is a former Soviet spy who gets sprung from a Russian prison and given a new identity—actually another veteran from Locked On.

There is a group of Chinese “wet workers”—government assassins—who have been assigned to kill a number of Americans including the girlfriend of the son of the American president. The most powerful general in China has decided it is time to take Taiwan and establish hegemony in Asia. There’s also a top-gun type American fighter pilot known as “Trash” White, a creepy FBI agent who is secretly into child porn, and so on and so on. And behind everything there appears a mysterious eminence grise known as the Center.

Lots of conflict, lots of action, lots of surprises. Told cleverly enough so that the reader can connect the dots and enjoy a good yarn. Over twenty years ago I recall a posting on an online bulletin board (remember those?) that spoke of Clancy fans as technodudes and technodudesses. Threat Vector is realistic escape reading for those fans and the many new ones.

A few quotations from Threat Vector:

Napoleon is credited with saying an army marches on its stomach. But that was in Napoleon’s time. Now it was clear to everyone…that the U.S. military marched on its bandwidth. (745)

…baseball, women, and family—the important things in the world. (835)

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