May 24, 2012

Book: Red Rabbit by Tom Clancy

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 4:04 pm

This was my first Clancy and I must say that I was impressed. He writes spy novels but is so different from other spy writers like Alistair McLean. He writes more realistically. He talks about the boring reality of the spy line – nothing happening most of the time. He also mixes in the real spy legends. He talks about Kim Philby (See review of Kim Philby’s real story Treason in the Blood reviewed earlier) and includes tidbits of spy legends and that gives a real feel to the story.

In outlook though, Tom is a dyed in the wool American, Republican, right wing author and this comes through in every rumination of every character out there. His comparisons of UK, Rome and Russia (Soviet Union) with the beloved US are amusing, to say the least.

The story is set at the time of Ronald Reagan in US and Margaret Thatcher in UK. This story features the early days of one of Tom Clancy’s recurring hero, Jack Ryan.

Jack and his eye surgeon wife are posted in UK. Having left the marines and having made his fortune as an Investment Banker, he joins the CIA for the love of serving his country.

It also involves Ed Foley, who is the head of CIA in Moscow, his cover being a diplomatic attache.

Oleg Zaitzev is a secret code man in KGB and when he stumbles on a plot to kill the Pope, his sense of morality is offended and he decides to defect to the US and prevent the murder. Ed’s wife Patricia May, who is also an agent and who speaks fluent Russian too.

The story is about how they outwit the Soviet Empire and take Oleg and his entire family, including the “rabbit” his daughter Svetlana, out of USSR via Hungary and then to UK.

Patricia (Pat) has the brilliant idea of faking their death so that the KGB won’t even suspect that he has defected!

The story is breezily told with asides and many anecdotes in parallel.

In fact, after finishing the book if you think back, you can’t say that Ed or Jack even did anything remotely James Bond-like, and yet the story keeps your interest till the very end. The thoughts and banter alone will carry you along in an easy
storytelling experience, so you don’t notice the passage of pages until you are almost a quarter way into the book.

I think I will definitely read more Tom Clancy.

Weaving real characters (Andropov, the Pope) and real events (Pope John Paul being the victim of assassination) gives an interesting dimension to the story.

Don’t get me wrong; the story is all fluff, like Sydney Sheldon or McLean and is interestingly narrated. It also has a simplistic view of various countries – civilized US, semi-advanced UK, Italy and primitive Soviet Union… But it has a charm in the art of a spy-story telling.

I would award it a 6/10

— Krishna


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