Approaching THREAT VECTOR might seem like a daunting task at first. This is a big book; weighing in at well over 800 pages, it easily meets the classification of a “door-stopper” or “dog knocker,” depending on which side of the Atlantic Ocean you’re on. Tom Clancy has always painted on a huge canvas, and, ably assisted by co-author Mark Greaney, he uses each and every inch of each and every page to great effect.
"Clancy and Greaney bring their 'A' game to the book, nicely balancing plot and technological data with quirky characters and fast-moving situations that will keep you on the edge of your seats practically from beginning to end."
Lately, Clancy has changed his focus from his iconic Jack Ryan (that would be President Jack Ryan) character to Ryan’s namesake. Jack Jr. is a member of The Campus, a very off-the-books secret action squad that is financed entirely by its cover organization, Hendley Associates, a more or less public --- but very closely held --- investment firm. THREAT VECTOR begins with a covert team from The Campus, including Jack Jr., administering a bit of rough justice in Istanbul to avenge the loss of one of their own. The operation is a success, but it also reveals that an unknown someone seems to be aware of the existence of The Campus, as well as Hendley’s true mission.
That “someone” is code-named The Center, a cyber-warrior of remarkable and frightening talents and abilities who wages war via computer on behalf of The People’s Republic of China. At the same time, China is under the de facto joint rule of a weakened president and a strong, aggressive military leader who is bent on reclaiming disputed territory along the South China Sea. The Center is working at the latter’s behest, and makes a number of dramatic demonstrations of his ability to take over the cyber network of the United States and the powerful weapons tied into it. The Campus and its resident IT guy are all that stand between China and a major power grab. However, Jack Jr. has some unexpected problems of his own of which he is barely aware and that may well reveal all of the secrets of The Center while bringing him --- and his famous father --- down.
If you thought that war in cyberspace would be boring, you would be wrong. Clancy and Greaney bring their “A” game to the book, nicely balancing plot and technological data with quirky characters and fast-moving situations that will keep you on the edge of your seats practically from beginning to end. Though a big book, it moves quickly (I have read books with shorter page counts this year that felt much, much longer) and never seems to meander away from the multiple plot points that it presents. And while Ryan Sr. no longer has Clancy’s focus, he shows up in the narrative just often enough to demonstrate a strong, assured and steady hand on the ship of state, one who knows friend and foe and behaves accordingly.
If you are new to Clancy’s world or have been away from it for a while, read THREAT VECTOR and get back into the fold.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 7, 2012