Tom Clancy’s new novel, appearing while his second book, RED STORM RISING, is still on best-seller lists, is set several years before the action of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, the book which unexpectedly made the insurance broker from Maryland a top-selling author. In PATRIOT GAMES, Jack Ryan, the hero of THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, becomes the next target of a Marxist-Leninist Irish-liberation splinter group, the Ulster Liberation Army (ULA), after he disrupts their attack on whom he later discovers are the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Clancy’s writing is even surer than in his previous two novels: Gone are the rapid shifts in setting that, while conveying simultaneity of action, occasionally became confusing. The narrative flows smoothly, carrying along the reader unwilling to set down the book. Characters are more rounded here; Jack Ryan is given not only attributes--such as his fear of flying--but also motivations. He is not simply a heroic marine who reacted instinctively in a combatlike situation; he is an Irish-American, the son of a policeman, who resents the lawlessness of the Irish nationalist terrorist groups. The story seems plausible, and one is fascinated both by the plans of the ULA and by the steady analysis made by both Ryan and the British as they try to anticipate the ULA’s next move.
One might cavil, in the light of the Iran-contra hearings, at the unremittingly positive view of government officials, but it is pleasant to read occasionally about characters whose moral standards and codes of honor are strong. Clancy’s purpose is to entertain, and he does.