How fortunate can we be? After an absence of a number of years, Tom Clancy, within the space of a few months (and with the able-bodied assistance of worthy collaborators), presents his considerable reading public with two mammoth works. The second of these is AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, written with Peter Telep. While last year's DEAD OR ALIVE, in collaboration with Grant Blackwood, brought Clancy's numerous creations together for one large (and we won't say last) hurrah, this latest work introduces a new character.
AGAINST ALL ENEMIES is vintage Clancy in brand-new clothes, with Moore every bit as memorable a protagonist as the iconic Jack Ryan...
Max Moore is a former Navy SEAL who is working with the Special Activities Division (SAD) of the CIA. He's a new warrior for a dangerous time, possessed with a skill set that combines lethal fighting abilities with a canny intelligence and an almost inhuman amphibian capability that made him a legend among his SEAL instructors. Clancy and Telep insert Moore into a battle with two fronts, resulting in a long but always engrossing tale that will keep you up and happily bleary-eyed for at least a couple of nights.
The basis for AGAINST ALL ENEMIES is a story that has circulated for several years, strongly confirmed by some and vigorously denied by others. There are variations, but the main thrust of it concerns an unholy agreement between one of the Mexican drug cartels and the Taliban, involving drugs and access to the United States at its southern border, with one dirty hand washing the other. Specifically, the Taliban would supply opium to the cartel, while the cartel would provide the Taliban with the unprecedented opportunity to bring its unholy jihad to the heart of the United States.
Moore, fresh off a disastrous mission --- times two --- in Pakistan, is itching for a bit of payback to the Taliban, and the crack team of which he becomes an extremely important part gives him the opportunity to provide just that. Clancy is known as a master of detail, and his in-the-room descriptions of everything from SEAL training to prisoner interrogation to the breathtaking opulence that drug money pays for has to be experienced to be believed. But Clancy and Telep do not get so bogged down in details that the story suffers. AGAINST ALL ENEMIES is vintage Clancy in brand-new clothes, with Moore every bit as memorable a protagonist as the iconic Jack Ryan, as he goes undercover in the territories of drug warlords, where getting caught in the crossfire is a way of life.
Moore's target is a major Taliban leader whose plan to bring the war to the United States is as brilliant as it is audacious. Moore is used to playing with a team, and each member of his unit brings a unique set of talents. The question is whether they will bring enough to combat the combined malevolence of the Taliban and a drug cartel. While fans of Clancy's past work will not be surprised by that answer, they will not be disappointed either.
AGAINST ALL ENEMIES is an exciting and frightening work. The acts of the drug cartels as related here are entirely accurate, as those living along the southern border of Texas in cities such as El Paso can readily attest. The methods that the cartels use to circumvent the vigilance of the American border patrols are also spot-on, as unbelievable as they may seem. Those who rushed to judgment over the attempts of the border states to secure their boundaries might reconsider after reading AGAINST ALL ENEMIES. As for Clancy, he is back (was there any doubt?), and his creation of a major new character would seem to indicate that he has much more to say in the years ahead.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 27, 2011