Command Authority: A Jack Ryan Novel
COMMAND AUTHORITY is attracting even more attention than a new title bearing Tom Clancy’s name ordinarily would. This is primarily due to Clancy’s recent and somewhat untimely death. A smaller part also might be attributed to the simultaneous publication of contributor Mark Greaney’s new novel, DEAD EYE, the latest installment in his Gray Man series. If the powers that be are seeking to continue the franchise that Clancy created and nurtured over several decades, it would seem that Greaney would be an excellent choice for the driver’s seat, as he demonstrates here.
As one might expect from a Clancy novel, COMMAND AUTHORITY seems remarkably prescient, as current as today’s --- and possibly next week’s --- headlines. As with the more recent volumes in the Jack Ryan series, the action is divided roughly between Ryan, Sr., who has returned to his position of power in the White House, and Ryan, Jr., who is working in London as a financial analyst. Both men discover separate anomalies in their respective endeavors that gradually intersect over the course of the novel’s narrative.
"If the powers that be are seeking to continue the franchise that Clancy created and nurtured over several decades, it would seem that Greaney would be an excellent choice for the driver’s seat, as he demonstrates here."
Ryan, Jr. learns about the takeover of an oil and gas company that leads him to the discovery of a plot involving Russian military intelligence and criminal elements. Meanwhile, Ryan, Sr. is dealing initially with a Russian foray into Estonia when things become extremely complicated. Almost immediately following a quiet meeting at the White House, Sergey Golovko, a former adversary of the President’s who once headed Russia’s dreaded SVR (foreign intelligence) service, no sooner finishes an informative meeting with Ryan, Sr. in the White House than he becomes ill and dies a few hours later due to radiation poisoning.
Golovko had been warning Ryan, Sr. about Russian President Valeri Volodin. According to Golovko, Volodin is in the midst of executing a plan to return Russia to its former glory as a dominant power in the world. The only thing standing in Volodin’s way is a closet full of skeletons --- he has a whole graveyard full, actually --- and he is willing to do anything to keep them from being revealed to the light of day. Ryan, Sr., of course, cannot let the Russian grab for power stand, even as it is being financed by the country’s immense profits from its gas and oil industries.
As the story unfolds, the narrative occasionally travels back in time some three decades before, when Ryan, Sr. was a CIA operative. It slowly but steadily becomes clear that events and individuals in his past are coming back to adversely influence events in the present day. The historical narrative further acts to compare and contrast the actions of Ryan, Sr. in the past and Ryan, Jr. in the present as the intricately woven plot races to a hair-raising conclusion with the balance of power in danger of shifting adversely against the United States.
Mark Greaney is a world-beater; it is an asset that is demonstrated in full glory here, as the authors give readers an over-the-shoulder view of locales familiar and otherwise while maintaining a number of hairtrigger plots and well-considered pacing to bring home the goods yet again. If COMMAND AUTHORITY is in fact the last Clancy novel, then this series is certainly ending on a high note; if not, then Clancy and Greaney have set a high mark to reach and exceed.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 13, 2013