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Without Remorse

by Tom Clancy

ISBN 0399138250 / 9780399138256 / 0-399-13825-0
Publisher G.P. Putnam's Son
Language English
Edition Hardcover
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Book summary

Expanding the universe of Jack Ryan and his colleagues, Without Remorse tracks the early career of John "The Invisible Man" Kelly, the ex-Navy SEAL who eventually becomes the shadowy John Clark of Clancy's other novels. Kelly is a highly decorated hero and a masterful soldier, diver and sailor. But during the first Nixon administration he suffers two tragedies that transform him into a ruthless vigilante: his pregnant wife is killed in a freak accident, and Pam, the woman he turns to in his pain, is murdered. Motivated by revenge, Kelly systematically kills the drug-dealing pimps who had so brutalized Pam and her friends. At the same time, CIA man James Greer recruits Kelly for covert operations in Vietnam.

While most of Clancy's oeuvre celebrates high-tech gadgets and clear-cut battles of good versus evil, Without Remorse focuses more on the character, struggles and motivations of its hero. Kelly's status is always ambiguous, reflecting the uncertainties of the Vietnam era, and Clancy resists the temptation of making him into a puritan. From the start, he holds secrets from even his loved ones (he won't tell Pam the origin of his SEAL tattoo, for example). While he is a killer, he believes he has justification for each death, and the CIA is more interested in his deadly talents than his criminal record.

For Clancy fans, the insights into the early history of Clark, Greer and others build a sense of realism and depth into the Jack Ryan series. As Kelly becomes Clark, Clancy underscores the sombre sense of resignation and despair that underlies much of the book: "He was working for the Agency now, so Clark was his name. It made it easier somehow." Yet, in the darkness of this moment, one can't help but reflect on what Clark and his CIA will become. It's like watching Batman donning his cape for the very first time. --Patrick O'Kelley [via]