The Sum Of All Fears

Whew…finally finished Tom Clancey’s the Sum Of All Fears.

I’ve been been comparing Clancey with George RR Martin, and I think Martin is a better writer. They both basically write the same story of kingdoms, politics, plans, disasters…. For me, Martin is an easier read, it might be his TV training, he keeps the chapters tight, focused on one person, and ends it with you wanting more about that character. Clancey has few main characters, but will pop in and out of minor characters viewpoint to give the details of the falling dominoes for his story. So for me it’s harder to keep track of who is doing what…for instance, do I really need to pay attention to that lumber-jack, or the rich Japanese businessman, will they have a role later, or is it the tree that is important?

Also, Martin’s characters are more believable. They have more personality. clancey’s characters are flat, the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, the weak are weak, and the strong are strong. And everyone stays within their type cast character.

That said, Clancey scares the shit out of me. Every thing that happened, was realistic. In the book, by chance of good guys making the right decision, disaster was averted.

It frightens me to think that corruption operates at high levels in liberal democracies. I’m sure it’s there.

It frightens me to think of how easy it is for a terrorist to strike America. Just think of OKC Federal Building, 9/11, or recent Boston Bombing.

“27,000 nuclear weapons. One is missing.” Yup, great tag line. But think about it, are we safer today than we were eighteen years ago when Clancey wrote this? Doubt it. I have grave concerns about the competence of nuclear-armed Pakistan (“oh, Bin Laden was here? Our bad.”) I am afraid of the motivations of the North Korean dictator. Iran is bothersome and worrying, but I trust the rational self interest of their leaders, most of the time…but, if they and Israel don’t trust each other…and a few thing go wrong, if there are mistakes made, if there are communications missed, if fear and mistrust are the guiding principles of a tense moment. How would quickly could that escalate?

I’ve heard Clancey is an expert of background technical informant, and does his homework on the capabilities of weapon systems. Some folks don’t like this part of Clancey, the dwelling on mechanical details, I just skim it.

Remember recently when the The American Embassy in Libya was attacked? I have friends who proclaimed, “that is an act of war!” I responded to them with, “remember when the USA destroyed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade? (1999) what did the Chinese do?” I’m proud of my brother, when I told him of these exchanges, he replied with, “boy, it sure is fun to move those plastic pieces around the map, isn’t it?” I’m glad that sometimes in international incidents that cooler heads can prevail. That sometimes tragic mistakes happen, and we don’t let it rush us into further catastrophe.

But it could. And that’s what was frightening about Clancey. Each small individually believable scenario added together built up into a perfect storm of the end of the world.

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