4 stars from when I was 36, and 2.5 stars now that I'm older.
Starting with Red Storm Rising
(1986), I used to buy every new Clancy novel in hardcover the day it came out. Back then, I was all about the storytelling, and when Clancy was on his game, there wasn't anybody better. He created an entirely new genre--the technothriller--and his sprawling, multiple-perspective stories were entirely satisfying and even educational.
Clancy always was an unapologetic conservative Republican, which, OK, I can deal. But right about the time he and his first wife separated and then divorced (1995-1999), a strain of misogyny started creeping into his books. Without Remorse
(1993) was outright obscene, in fact--lovingly describing the sexual torture of one of the characters. That's when I started getting leery of Clancy.
So, with that backstory, on to Executive Orders
, the second book to come out after Without Remorse
and the eighth book to star Jack Ryan. By now, Ryan has become President, after a major terrorist attack on Washington, and he's fighting battles on several fronts: political, personal, the media, etc. At the same time, forces are gathering to destroy the U.S. once and for all, using multiple forms of attack. It's a race to the finish to see whether Ryan can set up a functioning government and unravel the conspiracy before other disasters strike.
The story is told from multiple perspectives, as usual. The best sections involve Clark and Chavez, the biological weapon development and its effects, the military strategies, and the political maneuvering. But it's WAY too long--it could have been cut by a third without losing anything. Jack's wife, Cathy, shines when she's in her medical role, but she's been reduced to a simpering fool at all other times. In fact, all of the women in the story are reduced to their reproductive function in the end--if they're childless, they always wanted to have them, for example. Blech. I didn't really notice how Neanderthal Clancy was when I was younger, but now that I've been around the block a few times, it's everywhere...in several places, I just kept flipping pages. It's still a satisfying story, but the signal-to-noise ratio was really low in this one.
This was the last semi-decent Clancy novel--the ones that came out afterward, in my opinion, aren't worth the effort to wade through the bloviating. It's too bad, too, because the Ryans, Clark, Chavez, Holtzmann, etc. were great characters for so long.