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 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, 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
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
ã 2002 Hopkins and Company, LLC
recommendation rating for this book appeared in the October 2002
issue of Executive
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