Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect – Review

Mark Greaney. Tom Clancy Full Force and Effect. New York: Putnam, 2014. Print.

Clever. Tom Clancy has gone on to his reward, so he is no longer writing Jack Ryan technothrillers, but include the originator’s name in the title.  It will sell better that way.

As Clancy often did, Greaney writes about something that has become a curiosity since his book was published. Last month we all heard about a comedy film that portrays a farcical attempt to assassinate the Dear Leader of North Korea. Well, Full Force and Effect is a serious fictional novel of a North Korean attempt to assassinate the President of the United States.

Greaney has indeed adopted Clancy’s storytelling method. Multiple plots, lots of technical stuff, and plenty of suspense—Full Force and Effect does not lack any of these.

Chinese technicians have discovered and helped to open a rare earth metal mine. Rare earth metals are those mysterious elements in the middle of the periodic table that no one ever sees. Such metals are usually found together when they are discovered. The Chinese survey estimates that the metals in the mine could be worth twelve trillion dollars.

The North Koreans decide that they want to mine and refine the metals themselves rather than send the ore to plants in China. This is a typical third world stunt that usually backfires. I knew a man who sold oil-drilling equipment to a third-world country and was put in prison there for six months and then expelled without getting paid a dime for the equipment. The country is just as poor and miserable as it was back then (probably because there is no civic trust).

North Korea hires an international consultant based in New York for help in getting temporary talent for this mining operation. The consultant provides connections and travel documents to send experts from around the world to the site in North Korea. People working for him include a beautiful former spy from France and an Englishman with a flexible moral compass. It is a lot of fun.

And let’s be honest, dictators like North Korea’s Dear Leader rarely have any moral compass at all.

Greaney is up to his mentor with his plotting. However, compared to Clancy, his characterization is still weak. We knew what motivated Jack Ryan, John Clark, and a host of other characters like Irish separatists, Arab terrorists, Russian submariners, and even a Coast Guard chief. Full Force and Effect is missing that dimension except for a little from Jack Ryan. The plot has come alive; let us see the people come alive, too.

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