I read the Tom Clancy franchise books to escape whatever I need to escape. Now it’s probably the pandemic and everything related to it.
Enemy Contact is another instalment in the series featuring Jack Ryan, Jr. and the “Campus” organization. The Campus handles black ops interventions that the government can’t or won’t handle. The stories are action-oriented and involve a cast of operatives that has evolved throughout the series.
This book is missing about everything that has made the series worth reading, though the stories have become less interesting after Mark Greaney’s True Faith and Allegiance came out in 2016.
What is this book is missing:
- Most of the primary Campus characters from the best of the previous books.
- The black-ops action which has been the series’ true focus. Jack Ryan, Jr.’s cover story with the organization is that he’s a financial analyst, though those duties don’t usually play heavily into the plots. In this story, he spends most of the novel traveling in Poland looking for potential financial irregularities and/or treasonous associations in the investments of a U.S. Senator who ticked on the President of the U.S. President (Ryan’s dad).
- Ryan travels from one contact/company to another with Lilianna, a Polish agent who serves as a chauffeur/driver. He’s attracted to her but keeps the relationship professional. Since he’s working/posing only as a financial analyst, she has no idea he has black-ops skills. The meetings are rather routine, so the agent’s police skills are wasted, and we end up with more pages of Polish history and food information than anything else. Meanwhile, a more pressing IT security mess is developing that could impact U. S. security agencies, but we only hear snippets about it–and Ryan isn’t focused on that.
- With about ten percent of the book left, we finally get some black-ops action. Ryan is blind sided by it probably because he has been rather cavalier about the potential dangers of going around asking questions of bad people. He escapes one another group of bad guys only to get pulled into another group of bad guys while he’s off work. The action here is handled well.
- Then, suddenly all the other minor plot lines get resolved, most in a long epilogue, and the book ends. Formally, there is closure (though minimal) for the national security issues, but none for Ryan’s personal losses.
What a mess.
Malcolm R. Campbell’s short story collection Widely Scattered Ghosts is currently free on Smashwords. (epub or mobi format).