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Monday, October 07, 2013

RIP Tom Clancy

 photo Clancy1_zps93ce1dc4.jpg

In shocking news, best-selling author Tom Clancy passed away last week at 66. Well, I guess, as everyone dies, someone dying shouldn't be shocking, but it often is. I was really hoping Clancy had another sole-authored book in him, as his last few books all had co-authors. But let's back up.
I first came across Tom Clancy's work through my now deceased uncle James. Out in the country (and swamp country at that), witnessing a grown man reading a book is more rare than witnessing an alligator trudging across your driveway. However, my uncle James, who lived next door, always had an in-progress read on the coffee table. Often, that book was written by Tom Clancy. As I knew no other male readers, Uncle James was my sole reading influence, and I snagged any book he had finished. That meant plowing through the Hunt for Red October in the sixth grade, and so on, all the way to Clancy's Clear and Present Danger, and skipping ahead to Rainbow Six. I say "plow," but it took me forever to finish a Clancy-penned book. Months and months. I could knock out a Michael Crichton novel in a night, but Clancy's books were so dense and detail-oriented and grown up. I think Clear and Present Danger had a ten-page aside about how a minor character installed a mini-fridge in his garage.
As college began, and I selected English as my major, I became "too good" for Clancy books. They weren't "literature," written with "artistic integrity" as the goal, and I had better things to read--"critically (English Professorly) lauded over time" things to read. The trend continued into the heady, confusing years after college. As I slowly became bitter about my life choices, though, I began to notice Clancy's Debt of Honor nestled on my "unread" shelf. Christmas of 1995, my dear cousin gifted me the 900-page tome, and I had never gotten around to reading it. Finally, in the spring of 2012, I said, "Why not, Tom Clancy? Let's do this again." That spring, I really did plow through Debt of Honor. It was an incredibly fun read. I understood the political and military maneuverings far more clearly. I loved every second of it. I enjoyed it as much as any "classic" I had lately read. And my goodness, Debt of Honor predicted 9/11 seven years before it actually happened. Clancy's speculative powers bordered on genius. Why had I denied myself this Clancy goodness for so long?
Clancy's Debt of Honor ends on a cliffhanger, and now I'm reading its successor, Executive Orders, in the spare seconds I currently have to read. It is so much fun. I wish I could pull a couple junior-high style all-nighters and finish it quickly. At some point, I'll probably go back and read The Sum of All Fears, the novel I skipped so long ago, as well. But now, Clancy's works have a definite beginning and end. There will be no more Clancy-penned Jack Ryan and John Clark tales. Dangit, Clancy, I was just starting to comprehend what you meant to me. Rest in peace.


Neal said...

Funny. I had an uncle that used to read Clancy more as well, but then he got more anti-Clancy over the years because his books seemed to keep getting longer. I enjoyed them longer than he did, but I got what he meant... there was just too much minutiae after awhile.

Although it is amazing that he could be so readable with all that minutiae. That does take talent... for all of the quips "smart" reviewers made about the length of the Harry Potter books, even JK Rowling shows there's right ways to do a longer book. I think the last two books in the series have extremely good pacing--more so than the 4th and 5th books, which are about as long (or longer) and do drag a bit. Even if I like them too. :p

Not everyone agrees with me on Deathly Hallows, but they usually cite the sections of the book where Harry and Hermione are hiding out and a little directionless. The book isn't directionless there, it's reflective of the characters: they're at their lowest and most depressed. Suddenly from there we build up and up to the end, and it wouldn't work so well if we didn't have that great depression about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through the book.

Thus ends my late night digression, where I somehow brought Tom Clancy the realist story teller in with JK Rowling the fantastic story teller. Go figure.

Nicholas said...

I am probably going to stop at The Bear and the Dragon, as Clancy himself seemed to realize he needed to give words a break. I don't get why, when he finally came off the break, he went the co-author route. I am guessing his health has been dire for longer than reported.
Man, I am split on the Deathly Hallows. I didn't really start to enjoy the books til the third one, I really liked the final third of the fifth one. The sixth one was the only one to completely satisfy me with every chapter. And then Deathly Hallows. Man, that "great depression" is a slog. I HATED it the first time. I planned on reading the book in a night (after I picked it up at midnight), and that part killed me. It ended up taking me three. I read it again in 2009, and enjoyed that part of the book more. In fact, I think the film that covers those portions is my favorite of the eight. I'm just ambivalent about that entire book. I get the wandering nature of the middle. But did she have to shoehorn the mystery format again? The "who does the wand belong to" twist took me out of the action. I care about Harry vs. Tom, not who owns an inanimate object! And then there's Harry's final words before the prologue about getting Kreacher to make him a sandwich. Didn't we get a seven book useless b-plot about the freeing of the house elves? Why? To use the final words of the book to subjugate them just a bit more? And then the prologue. It adds nothing. It's just silly. Why? And then the post-release info about Dumbledore's sexuality. If it was important enough for her to reveal it, why didn't she reveal it in the book?
Sorry, I was not expecting to rant there. I actually like Deathly Hallows as a whole, but some things just drove me nuts. Spoiled by Return of the King, The Last Battle, The Wake, The Unifying Force, and any other great fantasy/sci-fi conclusion I've read. Overall, she did a decent job.