The Sum of All Fears

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

THE SUM OF ALL FEARS is the sixth novel to appear since Clancy’s compelling writing debut in THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1984). Since then, the reading public has eagerly awaited each of his subsequent creations. His fans will not be disappointed with his latest work, since Clancy is first and foremost a marvelous storyteller. He also believes in doing his research in order to make his tale seem frighteningly plausible. Clancy is able to describe, in detail, all the tools of the trade that are employed by terrorists, spies, and all branches of the military. Because of the vast sweep of his novel, the characters are not as well delineated as those introduced in more intimate stories.

The hero of THE SUM OF ALL FEARS is Jack Ryan, Clancy’s perennial protagonist. This time around, Ryan is the deputy director of the CIA. His no-nonsense approach to solving problems has not won him many friends and the stress of having to deal with back-stabbing bureaucrats every day has led him to drink in excess. Despite these problems, Ryan’s experience and ability to maintain a cool head under pressure serve him well during the central crisis of the novel. A group of fanatical terrorists get their hands on a nuclear device that had been attached to the wing of an Israeli plane that was shot down over Syria during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. The end of the Cold War and Jack Ryan’s efforts to bring peace to the Middle East seem to have made the world of the 1990’s a far safer place. Leftist terrorists refuse to let these new developments seize the day. Clancy meticulously describes how they will make use of the nuclear device for the purpose of starting a war between the United States and Russia. Their plot involves the detonation of the device at the Super Bowl game held in Denver, Colorado. The final two hundred pages of this mammoth novel will keep the attentive reader enthralled. Ryan must overcome a number of obstacles—including an incompetent president of the United States— before total war can be averted. THE SUM OF ALL FEARS could have used some trimming, but the overall impact is powerful and Clancy has once again come up with a storyline that appears to be taken from today’s headlines.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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