The Barnes & Noble Review
Money makes the world go round. And in Tom Clancy's new über-thriller, The Bear and the Dragon, money -- along with chronic machismo and conflicting cultural ideology -- spawns a terrible world conflict. No surprises here: The Bear and the Dragon's 1,000 plus pages hold exactly what Clancy fans are hoping to find. Part murder mystery, part spy/technothriller,
The Bear and the Dragon also offers suspenseful human drama and a fascinating -- and frightening -- glimpse at how the wheels within three powerful governments might churn when the threat of world war looms large.
The Bear and the Dragon sees Clancy's most popular creation -- POTUS (President of the United States for the uninitiated) Jack Ryan -- back in the limelight after five years riding the pine. Even though Jack's back, calling The Bear and the Dragon a "Jack Ryan thriller" is an injustice, for Ryan is simply one thread in this complex, techno-lovin' tapestry of political maneuverings, military muscle pumping, and state-of-the-art -- and old fashioned "charm the ladies" -- espionage. The cast is enormous; while plenty of new characters are introduced, scads of familiar ones (such as John Clark and his "Men in Black" of Rainbow Six) play important roles.
The story begins in present-day Russia; Sergey Nikolay'ch Golovko, the Chairman of the SVR (the former KGB), is on his way to work in his souped-up Mercedes-Benz. While pondering the social and economic growing pains his country currently endures, Golovko notices a second car -- identical to his own -- pull up alongside. Suddenly, a man holding an RPG (a hand-held missile
launcher) emerges from the rear of a near-by garbage truck; before Golovko or his driver can react, the man fires his weapon at the other car, killing its occupants instantly. Now the question arises: Was Golovko the intended victim?
Meanwhile, Russia scores its first good luck in years. Two discoveries in Siberia are made: One is an enormous oil field; the other is an equally sizeable gold mine. Together, these new resources will drastically change the scope of the dilapidated Russian economy...and make other nations jealous in the process.
Also, a CIA spook stationed in Beijing -- who's posing as an employee with the computer company NEC -- establishes a relationship with the young female secretary of Fang Gan, one of the China's senior ministers. Shortly, detailed accounts, direct from Fang's office, of dirty politburo scheming will be available for Ryan's perusal.
These -- and several other occurrences -- are the building blocks for what will soon develop into one heck of a light show. While The Bear and the Dragon is fiction, the casual reader becomes convinced of the situation's plausibility. Is the Russian relationship -- not to mention our own -- with China as unstable as The Bear and the Dragon suggests? Well, this reviewer
can't say for sure, but that's Clancy's power and appeal: multi-faceted, high-stakes thrills with an engrossing and convincing insider feel.
The Bear and the Dragon is a masterfully woven tale -- one that will have readers contemplating the potential truths behind the fiction. Frightening indeed.
Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
Newly elected President Jack Ryan faces a number of unstable and hostile political enemies, including China and Russia, in this forecast of future events by best-selling author Clancy.
Clancy is a natural storyteller.
Dallas Morning News
When the door blows open and the shooting starts, nobody does it better than Tom Clancy.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Klingons" is how hero Jack Ryan describes the villains--the Communist Chinese Politburo--of Clancy's mammoth new novel; other Yanks refer to Chinese soldiers as "Joe Chinaman." It's not for subtlety of characterization, then, that this behemoth proves so relentlessly engrossing. Nor is it for any modulation in the arc of its action, which moves insistently from standstill to hurtle. Nor is it for the author's (expressed) understanding of life's viscissitudes; in this Clancyverse, no white hat with a name dies, but every black hat gets whupped bad. Partly it's for the sheer bulk--if ever a book should come equipped with wheels, it's this one--which plunges readers into a sea of words so vast that, after hours of paddling happily through brisk prose, the horizon remains hidden from sight. Mostly, though, it's because that sea glitters with undeniable authority. Clancy has demonstrated in earlier books (Rainbow Six) that he towers above other novelists in his ability to deliver geo-political, techo-military goods on a global scale--and here he's at the top of that war-gaming. With aplomb, he spins numerous plot strands--among them: a Sino-American spy seduces his way into Politburo secrets; enormous oil and gold reserves are discovered in Siberia; the new Papal Nuncio to Beijing is murdered; the Politburo orders a hit on a top Russian official--that lead to a Chinese invasion of Russia and a credible war scenario that occupies the novel's last quarter and that culiminates in a nuclear crescendo. Each thread carries a handbook's worth of intoxicating, expertly researched--seemingly inside--information, about advanced weapons of war and espionage, about how various governments work, complemented always with ponderings about the tensions between individual honor and the demands of state. Add to that the excitement for Clancy fans of this being the first novel to feature not just Jack Ryan but also, in significant subordinate roles, Jack Clark and Ding Chavez of Rainbow Six and other tales, and you've got a juggernaut that's going to hit #1 its first week out and stay there for a good while. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
From the Publisher
"Builds to an excitingly cinematic climax as Ryan toils to bring the world back from the brink of nuclear war."-Entertainment Weekly
"Once Clancy pulls the trigger…nobody can touch his gift for describing combat."-People
"Those who like heart-stopping action in their thrillers will not be disappointed…Entertaining and eminently topical…Clancy still reigns. The publication of The Bear and the Dragon reminds his fans that he is not likely to be dethroned any time soon."-The Washington Post
"Exhilarating…You'd have to be numb not to be impressed by the scale of [Clancy's] ambition, his feel for the way information now flashes instantaneously across the globe, his mastery of technological developments. No other novelists is giving so full a picture of modern conflict, equally adeptly depicting those at the top and bottom of military and intelligence systems."-The London Sunday Times
"The most intricately plotted and in some ways the most satisfying of his military-techno thrillers since The Hunt For Red October…There's enough new technology to satisfy the most demanding Clancy fan…A juicy novel within a novel, full of heavy artillery, intrepid aviators and shrewd generals."-The Orlando Sentinel
"Clancy has a knack for stories that appear to come out of the daily headlines. The Bear and the Dragon confirms his title as a master of techno-thrillers."-The Montreal Gazette
"Interesting characters...too-real plotting."-The Florida Times-Union
"Clancy manages to thrill…The guts, the fun of these books, are the high-tech devices, the ingenious schemes and the inside look at military tactics. Clancy delivers here."-The Denver Post
"Clancy is a master of detail-especially those having to do with military action and weapons…And he builds strongly moral, attractive characters, ones we would like to emulate."-The Houston Chronicle
"The Bear and the Dragon works…Hypnotic appeal."-The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Read an Excerpt
The White Mercedes
Going to work was the same everywhere, and the changeover from Marxism-Leninism to Chaos-Capitalism hadn't changed matters much-well, maybe things were now a little worse. Moscow, a city of wide streets, was harder to drive in now that nearly anyone could have a car, and the center lane down the wide boulevards was no longer tended by militiamen for the Politburo and used by Central Committee men who considered it a personal right of way, like Czarist princes in their troika sleds. Now it was a left-turn lane for anyone with a Zil or other private car. In the case of Sergey Nikolay'ch Golovko, the car was a white Mercedes 600, the big one with the S-class body and twelve cylinders of German power under the hood. There weren't many of them in Moscow, and truly his was an extravagance that ought to have embarrassed him . . . but didn't. Maybe there were no more nomenklatura in this city, but rank did have its privileges, and he was chairman of the SVR. His apartment was also large, on the top floor of a high-rise building on Kutusovskiy Prospekt, a structure relatively new and well-made, down to the German appliances which were a long-standing luxury accorded senior government officials.
He didn't drive himself. He had Anatoliy for that, a burly former Spetsnaz special-operations soldier who carried a pistol under his coat and who drove the car with ferocious aggression, while tending it with loving care. The windows were coated with dark plastic, which denied the casual onlooker the sight of the people inside, and the windows were thick, made of polycarbonate and specced to stopanything up to a 12.7-mm bullet, or so the company had told Golovko's purchasing agents sixteen months before. The armor made it nearly a ton heavier than was the norm for an S600 Benz, but the power and the ride didn't seem to suffer from that. It was the uneven streets that would ultimately destroy the car. Road-paving was a skill that his country had not yet mastered, Golovko thought as he turned the page in his morning paper. It was the American International Herald Tribune, always a good source of news since it was a joint venture of The Washington Post and The New York Times, which were together two of the most skilled intelligence services in the world, if a little too arrogant to be the true professionals Sergey Nikolay'ch and his people were.
He'd joined the intelligence business when the agency had been known as the KGB, the Committee for State Security, still, he thought, the best such government department the world had ever known, even if it had ultimately failed. Golovko sighed. Had the USSR not fallen in the early 1990s, then his place as Chairman would have put him as a full voting member of the Politburo, a man of genuine power in one of the world's two superpowers, a man whose mere gaze could make strong men tremble . . . but . . . no, what was the use of that? he asked himself. It was all an illusion, an odd thing for a man of supposed regard for objective truth to value. That had always been the cruel dichotomy. KGB had always been on the lookout for hard facts, but then reported those facts to people besotted with a dream, who then bent the truth in the service of that dream. When the truth had finally broken through, the dream had suddenly evaporated like a cloud of steam in a high wind, and reality had poured in like the flood following the breakup of an icebound river in springtime. And then the Politburo, those brilliant men who'd wagered their lives on the dream, had found that their theories had been only the thinnest of reeds, and reality was the swinging scythe, and the eminence bearing that tool didn't deal in salvation.
But it was not so for Golovko. A dealer in facts, he'd been able to continue his profession, for his government still needed them. In fact, his authority was broader now than it would have been, because as a man who well knew the surrounding world and some of its more important personalities intimately, he was uniquely suited to advising his president, and so he had a voice in foreign policy, defense, and domestic matters. Of them, the third was the trickiest lately, which had rarely been the case before. It was now also the most dangerous. It was an odd thing. Previously, the mere spoken (more often, shouted) phrase "State Security!" would freeze Soviet citizens in their stride, for KGB had been the most feared organ of the previous government, with power such as Reinhart Heydrich's Sicherheitsdienst had only dreamed about, the power to arrest, imprison, interrogate, and to kill any citizen it wished, with no recourse at all. But that, too, was a thing of the past. Now KGB was split, and the domestic-security branch was a shadow of its former self, while the SVR-formerly the First Chief Directorate-still gathered information, but lacked the immediate strength that had come with being able to enforce the will, if not quite the law, of the communist government. But his current duties were still vast, Golovko told himself, folding the paper.
He was only a kilometer away from Dzerzhinskiy Square. That, too, was no longer the same. The statue of Iron Feliks was gone. It had always been a chilling sight to those who'd known who the man was whose bronze image had stood alone in the square, but now it, too, was a distant memory. The building behind it was the same, however. Once the stately home office of the Rossiya Insurance Company, it had later been known as the Lubyanka, a fearsome word even in the fearsome land ruled by Iosef Vissarionovich Stalin, with its basement full of cells and interrogation rooms. Most of those functions had been transferred over the years to Lefortovo Prison to the east, as the KGB bureaucracy had grown, as all such bureaucracies grow, filling the vast building like an expanding balloon, as it claimed every room and corner until secretaries and file clerks occupied the (remodeled) spaces where Kamenev and Ordzhonikidze had been tortured under the eyes of Yagoda and Beriya. Golovko supposed that there hadn't been too many ghosts.
Well, a new working day beckoned. A staff meeting at 8:45, then the normal routine of briefings and discussions, lunch at 12:15, and with luck he'd be back in the car and on his way back home soon after six, before he had to change for the reception at the French Embassy. He looked forward to the food and wine, if not the conversation.
Another car caught his eye. It was a twin to his own, another large Mercedes S-class, iceberg white just like his own, complete down to the American-made dark plastic on the windows. It was driving purposefully in the bright morning, as Anatoliy slowed and pulled behind a dump truck, one of the thousand such large ugly vehicles that covered the streets of Moscow like a dominant life-form, this one's load area cluttered with hand tools rather than filled with earth. There was yet another truck a hundred meters beyond, driving slowly as though its driver was unsure of his route. Golovko stretched in his seat, barely able to see around the truck in front of his Benz, wishing for the first cup of Sri Lankan tea at his desk, in the same room that Beriya had once . . . the distant dump truck. A man had been lying in the back. Now he rose, and he was holding . . .
"Anatoliy!" Golovko said sharply, but his driver couldn't see around the truck to his immediate front.
. . . it was an RPG, a slender pipe with a bulbous end. The sighting bar was up, and as the distant truck was now stopped, the man came up to one knee and turned, aiming his weapon at the other white Benzthe other driver saw it and tried to swerve, but found his way blocked by the morning traffic andnot much in the way of a visual signature, just a thin puff of smoke from the rear of the launcher-tube, but the bulbous part leapt off and streaked into the hood of the other white Mercedes, and there it exploded.
It hit just short of the windshield. The explosion wasn't the fireball so beloved of Western movies, just a muted flash and gray smoke, but the sound roared across the square, and a wide, flat, jagged hole blew out of the trunk of the car, and that meant that anyone inside the vehicle would now be dead, Golovko knew without pausing to think on it. Then the gasoline ignited, and the car burned, along with a few square meters of asphalt. The Mercedes stopped almost at once, its left-side tires shredded and flattened by the explosion. The dump truck in front of Golovko's car panic-stopped, and Anatoliy swerved right, his eyes narrowed by the noise, but not yet-
"Govno!" Now Anatoliy saw what had happened and took action. He kept moving right, accelerating hard and swerving back and forth as his eyes picked holes in the traffic. The majority of the vehicles in sight had stopped, and Golovko's driver sought out the holes and darted through them, arriving at the vehicle entrance to Moscow Center in less than a minute. The armed guards there were already moving out into the square, along with the supplementary response force from its shack just inside and out of sight. The commander of the group, a senior lieutenant, saw Golovko's car and recognized it, waved him inside and motioned to two of his men to accompany it to the drop-off point. The arrival time was now the only normal aspect of the young day. Golovko stepped out, and two young soldiers formed up in physical contact with his heavy topcoat. Anatoliy stepped out, too, his pistol in his hand and his coat open, looking back through the gate with suddenly anxious eyes. His head turned quickly.
"Get him inside!" And with that order, the two privates strong-armed Golovko through the double bronze doors, where more security troops were arriving.
"This way, Comrade Chairman," a uniformed captain said, taking Sergey Nikolay'ch's arm and heading off to the executive elevator. A minute later, he stumbled into his office, his brain only now catching up with what it had seen just three minutes before. Of course, he walked to the window to look down.
Moscow police-called militiamen-were racing to the scene, three of them on foot. Then a police car appeared, cutting through the stopped traffic. Three motorists had left their vehicles and approached the burning car, perhaps hoping to render assistance. Brave of them, Golovko thought, but an entirely useless effort. He could see better now, even at a distance of three hundred meters. The top had bulged up. The windshield was gone, and he looked into a smoking hole, which had minutes before been a hugely expensive vehicle, and which had been destroyed by one of the cheapest weapons the Red Army had ever mass-produced. Whoever had been inside had been shredded instantly by metal fragments traveling at nearly ten thousand meters per second. Had they even known what had happened? Probably not. Perhaps the driver had had time to look and wonder, but the owner of the car in the back had probably been reading his morning paper, before his life had ended without warning.
That was when Golovko's knees went weak. That could have been him . . . suddenly learning if there were an afterlife after all, one of the great mysteries of life, but not one which had occupied his thoughts very often . . .
But whoever had done the killing, who had been his target? As Chairman of the SVR, Golovko was not a man to believe in coincidences, and there were not all that many white Benz S600s in Moscow, were there?
"Comrade Chairman?" It was Anatoliy at the office door.
"Yes, Anatoliy Ivan'ch?"
"Are you well?"
"Better than he," Golovko replied, stepping away from the window. He needed to sit now. He tried to move to his swivel chair without staggering, for his legs were suddenly weak indeed. He sat and found the surface of his desk with both his hands, and looked down at the oaken surface with its piles of papers to be read-the routine sight of a day which was not now routine at all. He looked up.
Anatoliy Ivan'ch Shelepin was not a man to show fear. He'd served in Spetsnaz through his captaincy, before being spotted by a KGB talent scout for a place in the 8th "Guards" Directorate, which he'd accepted just in time for KGB to be broken apart. But Anatoliy had been Golovko's driver and bodyguard for years now, part of his official family, like an elder son, and Shelepin was devoted to his boss. He was a tall, bright man of thirty-three years, with blond hair and blue eyes that were now far larger than usual, because though Anatoliy had trained for much of his life to deal with and in violence, this was the first time he'd actually been there to see it when it happened. Anatoliy had often wondered what it might be like to take a life, but never once in his career had he contemplated losing his own, certainly not to an ambush, and most certainly not to an ambush within shouting distance of his place of work. At his desk outside Golovko's office, he acted like a personal secretary more than anything else. Like all such men, he'd grown casual in the routine of protecting someone whom no one would dare attack, but now his comfortable world had been sundered as completely and surely as that of his boss.
Oddly, but predictably, it was Golovko's brain that made it back to reality first.
"We need to find out who died out there, and then find out if it was supposed to be us instead. Call militia headquarters, and see what they are doing."
"At once." The handsome young face disappeared from the doorway.
Golovko took a deep breath and rose, taking another look out the window as he did so. There was a fire engine there now, and firefighters were spraying the wrecked car to extinguish the lingering flames. An ambulance was standing by as well, but that was a waste of manpower and equipment, Sergey Nikolay'ch knew. The first order of business was to get the license-plate number from the car and identify its owner, and from that knowledge determine if the unfortunate had died in Golovko's place, or perhaps had possessed enemies of his own. Rage had not yet supplanted the shock of the event. Perhaps that would come later, Golovko thought, as he took a step toward his private washroom, for suddenly his bladder was weak. It seemed a horrid display of frailty, but Golovko had never known immediate fear in his life, and, like many, thought in terms of the movies. The actors there were bold and resolute, never mind that their words were scripted and their reactions rehearsed, and none of it was anything like what happened when explosives arrived in the air without warning.
Who wants me dead? he wondered, after flushing the toilet.