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Red Rabbit by Tom Clancy

 

Rating: (Read only if your interest is strong)

 

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Tame Retro Stew

Tom Clancy fans may not care that this book moves slowly, contains too many pages, and few plot twists. Diehard fans will be thrilled that Jack Ryan is back, even if it’s in a return to the 1980s. In Red Rabbit, Clancy brings Ryan from an analyst at CIA headquarters to an analyst in England, working with that country’s intelligence service. Ryan heads into the field to escort a Soviet defector to the West. The central motif involves a Soviet leadership plot to assassinate the Pope for his trying to stir up trouble in his native Poland.

Here’s an excerpt:

“But it was generally felt, if not widely spoken, that KGB was becoming more kulturniy in its dealings with the world. More cultured. More civilized. Kinder and gentler. Traitors, of course, were executed, but only after a trial in which they were at least given a pro forma chance to explain their actions and, if they were innocent, to prove it. It almost never happened, but only because the State only prosecuted the truly guilty. The investigators in the Second Chief Directorate were among the most feared and skillful people in the entire country. It was said they were never wrong and never fooled, like some kind of gods.
Except that the State said that there were no gods.
Men, then – and women. Everyone knew about the Sparrow School, about which the men often spoke with twisty grins and winking eyes. Ah, to be an instructor or, better still, a quality-assurance officer there! they dreamed. And to be paid for it. As his Irina often noted, all men were pigs. But, Zaitev mused, it could be fun to be a pig.
Kill the pope – why? He was no threat to this country. Stalin himself had once joked, How many divisions does the Pope have? So why kill the man? Even the rezident warned against it. Goderenko feared the political repercussions. Stalin had ordered Trotsky killed, and had dispatched a KGB officer to do it, knowing that he’d suffer long-term imprisonment for the task. But he’d done it, faithful to the Will of the Party, in a professional gesture that they talked about in the academy training classes – along with the more casual advice that we really don’t do that sort of thing anymore. It was not, the instructors didn’t add, kulturniy. And so, yes KGB was drifting away from that sort of behavior.
Until now. Until today. And even our senior rezident is advising against it. Why? Because he doesn’t want himself and his agency – and his country! – to be so nekulturniy?
Or because to do so would be worse that foolish? It would be wrong … ? ‘Wrong” was a concept foreign to citizens in the Soviet Union. At least, what people perceived as things that were morally wrong. Morality in his country had been replaced by what was politically correct or incorrect. Whatever served the interests of his country’s political system was worthy of praise. That which did not was worthy of … death?
And who decided such things?
Men did.
Men did because there was no morality, as the world understood the term. There was no God to pronounce what was good and what was evil.
And yet…
And yet, in the heart of every man was an inborn knowledge of right and wrong. To kill another man was wrong. To take a man’s life you had to have a just cause. But it was also men who decided what constituted such cause. The right men in the right place with the right authority had the ability and the right to kill because – why?
Because Marx and Lenin said so.
That was what the government of his country had long since decided.
Zaitzev buttered his last piece of bread and dipped it in the remaining gravy in his bowl before eating it. He knew he was thinking overly deep, even dangerous, thoughts. His parent society did not encourage or even permit independent thinking. You were not supposed to question the Party and its wisdom.”

The first three hundred pages of Red Rabbit set a slow pace, even for Clancy. Unless you really like Clancy’s writing and characters, take a pass.

Steve Hopkins, August 28, 2002

 

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The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the October 2002 issue of Executive Times

 

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