I would not recommend this book. Mr. Clancy's characters are notoriously one-dimensional, and he has always been far more talented at describing the inner workings of an atomic bomb than he has the inner workings of a human being. For Clancy's stories to work they need to be set in a black and white world completely void of nuance. Locked On requires too much reliance on the gray area of politics.
Locked On is an interesting read if one has recently read Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. Both that series and Locked On employ a far right-wing spy agency working outside the government. In Locked On, they are the good guys. As always, America is in mortal danger, this time on two fronts: from abroad, the evil Terrorists and at home, the even more evil Liberals. The Terrorists at least have a cause, they want to set up the Caliphate, certainly a despicable goal, but a goal nonetheless. The Liberals have no such goal. They just plain hate America, and want to destroy the government, even a liberal government. Here is where Mr. Clancy is at his weakest. He is simply in over his head when trying to describe a conflict of ideas, and his political subplot falls flat. His cartoonishly evil Liberals add laugh out loud comic relief - whether intended or unintended is not clear - as they try and destroy America, seemingly just because it's there.
Mr. Clancy's main character, Jack Ryan, Sr. may have finally outlived his usefulness to the series. I was a fan of the early novels, because that Jack Ryan was a bit of an underdog. He was out of his element, an ordinary man pushed to extraordinary action by circumstances beyond his control. Unfortunately, as he moved up the ladder and got more power, and more control, he became less sympathetic. By the end of Locked On, when President Ryan sends a helicopter and a phalanx of black-suited soldiers to arrest a sixty-year old woman, one has to worry about what the next four years under a Ryan administration will bring for those who disagree with the state. Jack's son, Jack, Jr. or Jack Ryan 2.0 is bound and determined not to be the underdog his father was. He's learning hand-to-hand combat. He's a key member of a team of assassins that misses the good old days of when they could just stab a man with a poison filled pen, and he beats a man's brains out on a marble floor.
On the bright side, no one tells a story better than Tom Clancy. His structure is always strong, and his pace is excellent. The action segments do not disappoint. Lou Diamond Phillips does a great job reading the book, and he slips in and out of the multitude of requisite accents flawlessly.
The first book in Olen Steinhauer's series chronicling the cold war through the eyes of an Eastern Bloc homicide squad. The story is brilliant, I thought, and puts the American reader, at least, on a side of the Iron Curtain to which he is not accustomed. A tremendous story that keeps you wondering till the last moment. Sadly the book is, I feel, marred by the narration. Mr. Schmidke keeps a good pace and does a passable job with story. His voice seems to lack the flexibility to handle the different characters in the book, and his female characters sound like Homer Simpson. Some characters don't even sound human. The voice of Emil's partner is particularly unlistenable.
This is a 5-star book. I took two stars off the overall because of the performance. If the performance doesn't bother you, you'll be fine.
Just goes to show, you can have great ingredients, but with the wrong chef, you still don't get much of a meal. First audio book in a year that I just stopped listening to, and put on the shelf. I felt like there was a little too much Ron McLarty and he overpowered Hunter Thompson's writing. Accents we're odd and inconsistent. Just my personal taste, take it with a grain of salt.
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