The Cold War and post Cold War eras have brought with them many interesting aspects. New technologies initially meant for mass destruction filter down into the civilian world, making current lives easier. One example of this is the anti-lock braking systems of today’s cars. Originally designed to slow fighter-planes on landing without skidding, these systems make it safer for parents to take their children on vacation. One less noted advancement the eras brought is a considerable amount of exciting and forewarning fiction. While most authors chose to warn of nuclear and post nuclear holocaust, one significant author chose a different approach. Tom Clancy chose to write of conventional warfare and sometimes unconventional enemies. Between his novel Red Storm Rising and Debt of Honor, Tom Clancy makes evident the changing face of America’s enemies and threats, while staying true to issues that keep people interested in his books.
Published in 1986, Red Storm Rising is Tom Clancy’s second novel dealing with the former Soviet Union as a potential enemy. This was a time when America’s finest tank and infantry units went on exercises in Germany fully armed with the expectation that the Russians could attack them at any time. This was also a time when the Soviets did the same exercises with the same amount of live ammunition. Therefore there was reason enough to worry about potential conflicts. Deep within the ocean waters, submarines played similar cat and mouse games with other submarines and surface ships. However some of these submarines were more dangerous then a whole army because they were fully loaded with nuclear missles. These facts were well know to the American public and made Red Storm Rising all the more real when it combined land and ocean warfare in a way that captivated millions of readers.
The book begins as the Soviet Union’s ability to provide their own oil is cut off by a terrorist attack. Right away it is noted that two very frightening events have just happened. Terrorism, for one, is a major scare tactic that can and does strike fear into millions. This was demonstrated by two suspected attacks in the U.S. recently (Bombing of Flight 800 and the Olympic Park bombing). Secondly, the threat of losing petroleum resources is enough to drive governments to drastic measures. This fact is evident in the world’s participation in the 1991 Gulf War. The leaders of the Soviet Union decided that the only way to prevent the total collapse of their economy and country was to seize the oil rich Middle East. They also realized that the countries that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), in particular the United States would not stand for this hostile action. Consequently the Soviets determine that it will be necessary to neutralize NATO conventionally; that is to say without nuclear weapons.
Of course, throughout the Cold War the many themes of the U.S.S.R. attacking the U.S are presented by various authors. All of these had the same result: nuclear holocaust. One exception is that Red Storm Rising is the first to present it (theme of U.S.S.R. attacking the U.S.) in a non-nuclear scenario. This is very intriguing to examine the possibilities which include all the new technological weapons in the American and Soviet arsenals. Red Storm Rising captivates audiences with its techno-wizardry of smart bombs and satellite guided cruise missles. “It was like an arcade game. Big, slow-moving blips denoted the aircraft. Smaller, quicker blips were the Mach-2 missiles (Clancy 178).” This was seen by a radar operator who was under attack during Red Storm Rising.
However it is not the high tech gadgets that appeal to audiences of Red Storm Rising. There is a personable feel as the reader becomes better acquainted with the characters and sympathizes for them and the decisions they make. This is not the story of machines run by artificial intelligence, these are real people, friends, and neighbors of the reader.
Bob Toland was a middle-level analyst at the National Security Agency. He’d left the Navy after six years whey the adventure of uniformed service had palled, but he remained an active reservist. His work at NSA dovetailed nicely with his naval reserve service. A communications expert with a degree in electronics, his current job eas monitoring Sovien signals gathered by the NSA’s numerous listening posts and ferret satellites. Along the way he’d also gotten a masters in the Russian language (Clancy 55).
The description of Bob Toland could apply to anyone in the Washington D.C. area or any neighborhood across the U.S.
With the ending of world communism, reunification of Germany, and breakup of the Soviet Union, Tom Clancy’s books evolved to present more modern enemies and even several “What if?” situations. This is the case with his latest novel Debt of Honor. This installment of the Jack Ryan saga, Clancy’s main character, was published in 1994. It takes place mostly on American soil with other parts in Japan and the Pacific Ocean. This piece of tecno-thiller centers around a possible trade war between the U.S. and Japan. This “What if?” outlook of Clancy’s was seen in real life in the spring of 1995 as a potential trade war with Japan was averted by quick thinking on the part of both governments.
The novel is complete with Clancy’s usual well-timed and interesting plot structure. As one coincidental event leads to another, the antagonist of the story, Mr Yamata, realizes his chance to pay back the debt of honor he has to the U.S. Yamata’s family was dishonored by committing suicide on the island of Saipan rather than being captured by the U.S. during World War II. This historical fact brings the plot to life as the reader tends to wonder when this will happen.
The novel also highlights some very interesting political processes involving ambassadors and diplomats. It brings to light the amount of bargaining and “give and take” that is required to accomplish an agenda in international politics. This is illustrated by an American diplomat and a Japanese diplomat discuss an upcoming treaty. “Your help will be invaluable, Chris,’ Nagumo said quietly, thinking more rapidly now. I can help you with interpreting our laws–quietly, of course,’ he added…(Clancy 206).”
Debt of Honor also brings about the idea that several enemies might unite in order to achieve a common goal. The goal happens to be the defeat of the United States by engineering a computer related crash of the entire economic system of the U.S. This thought alone, of a computer crash, has scared many writers and businesspeople who depend on computers for work. The common computer crash has even reached home to touch children and adults alike when the computer ceases to perfom as expected and even freezes up. The particular crash that disables the economy is quite commonly called a virus. Viruses effect Americans almost everyday in ways they might not even recognize. One of the most publicized viruses is the Michelangelo Virus. This virus attacks any infected computer booted up on March 6, the birthday of 16th century painter Michelangelo. It is obvious how the threat of a virus keeps readers’ noses in Tom Clancy’s books.
As the face of world politics change, it is evident that the works of Tom Clancy will change as well. From his beginnings with Red Storm Rising and his latest novel Debt of Honor, Clancy has kept abreast of current events and technologies in order to bring to the reader an intriguing and realistic story. He has interviewed admirals, generals and has even been to the White House to meet the President. His writing mechanics and techniques of reader manipulation keep readers filled with suspense and compassion for the characters until the book’s end. Even at that point, it leaves readers longing for more.