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From Barnes & NobleThe 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.