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The Cardinal of the Kremlin

Average Rating 4.5
( 143 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2006

    Waste of time

    This book is a fine example of what I like to call boys' equivalent of Harlequin novels: books packed with action and lots of technical details, but not requiring much thinking. The reader is not challenged to think why (something is about to happen), only how. Clancy's research of the technical issues of the military, its structure, the weapons, etc., seems impressive, but I admit I don't know much about those things, so it's easy to impress me with that. His knowledge of the Russian culture and language do him a lot of credit, although there too he made some faux pas (example, samogan instead of samogon, or Ukrania instead of Ukraina). However, in a spy novel, technical information is only worth the paper it's printed on if the story is good, and the story here quite honestly is weak. The good and the evil here are too clearly cut, obvious to the point of naive. The CIA is too patriotic, honest, and clean while the KGB is only as good as the guy who spies for the Americans - everyone else in KGB are plain outright evil. It's interesting that Clancy doesn't make Narmonov (a character meant to portray Gorbachev) the principal villain. Rather, it's the head of the KGB Gerasimov. Narmonov gets a mild approval from Clancy, as a statesman trying to change the USSR into a more democratic country. However, in the end, Clancy adds a dialogue between Narmonov and Ryan, where they express their respective coutry's views on the arms race. In short, Ryan says that having weapons is only justified if they protect, not attack. Narmonov says that having assault weapons is justified by the need to deter the enemy. Effectively, Clancy blames the USSR for the Cold War and the arms race, when the US had just as much to do with it. Placing Narmonov in this dialogue is especially inappropriate since Gorbachev got the Nobel Peace Prize for making the first step in the dialogue with the west and being proactive about stopping the Cold War. But perhaps I'm getting too factual, this IS a piece of fiction after all. The literary merits of this book are few and far between. Clancy's narrative is mediocre at best. The flashes of nice intrigue and action are mired by pages upon pages of technical matter that may interest only some readers. He follows all of the conventions of the genre, but then anyone could write a spy novel doing just that. His characters lack depth. Ryan is only an officer doing his job and saying all the right things, Gerasimov is pure unadulterated evil, who just wants to snatch power from Narmonov, and Filitov, who became a hero few had ever came close to becoming, and spies for the CIA. Now, here, I thought Clancy had a great chance to explore what was wrong with the Soviet system through the eyes of this character - explain why after over sixty years of believing in the Communist dream, becoming an unparalleled hero in his country this man decided to betray it. Instead, Clancy left me hanging in the air. If the answer is supposed to be 'obvious' that Soviet is bad, and American is good, that's too simplistic. I have to admit I haven't read any of his other books, well, not entirely. I started The Bear and the Dragon, but couldn't plough through more than a hundred pages. At any rate, I just wanted to make it clear that I'm revewing this book, not the author in general.

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    Posted March 9, 2012

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    Posted September 15, 2014

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    Posted August 13, 2011

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