This morning, 25 September 2002, I finished reading Red Rabbit
by Tom Clancy.
It is a work of fiction. But its set in 1981, with Jack Ryan
of the CIA investigating an attempt by Soviet officials to assassinate
the Pope, John Paul II.
The reviews I have seen rate it poorly. For example L.D. Meagher
of CNN said don't read it:
"... Most of what Clancy writes has nothing to do with
the story. Nor can it even charitably be classified as "character
development," since there's very little to differentiate
between one character and the next.
Take Zaitzev, the would-be defector. As he makes his decision
to bolt and spill the beans, Clancy fills page after page with
his private thoughts.
"He'd never heard of any senior political figure in his
country," the author writes, "... standing on a matter
of principle and telling his peers that they were doing something
wrong. No, the system precluded that by the sort of people it
selected. Corrupted men only selected other corrupted men to
be their peers, lest they have to question the things that gave
them their own vast privileges."
Such thoughts might serve to give the character some individuality,
if Clancy didn't have several other characters -- including the
KGB chairman -- parrot the same sentiments. "Red Rabbit"
drips anti-Soviet dogma. ..."
Perhaps the reviewer is missing the point. I don't think Clancy
is writing about the Soviets of 1981. He is writing for the world
after 11 September 2001. The issues of sociology, belief, religion
and corruption are important to us. But they are sensitive issues.
I think he has done a good job in addressing them.
Here is a discussion between two intelligence analysists about
the Soviets, from page 77:
"... "But how faithful is the current political
leadership to Marxist theory?"
A thoughtful nod. "That's the question, Jack. The answer
is, we don't bloody know. They all claim to be true believers,
but are they? ... Only when it suits them, I think. But that
depends on who one is talking about. Suslov, for example, believes
totally -- but the rest of them? To some greater or lesser extent,
they do and they don't. I suppose you can characterize them as
people who used to go to church every Sunday, then fell away
from the habit. Part of them still believes, but some greater
or lesser part does not. What they do believe in is the
fact that the state religion is the source of their power and
status. And so, for all the common folk out there, they must
appear to believe, because believing is the only thing
that gives them that power and status." ..."
I think there are false religions, mislead people and misleading
people. But this does not mean rejecting everything. Jack Ryan
thinks about the Pope he trying to defend on page 598:
"... The Pope was a man who'd probably never hurt a single
human being in his life. The Catholic Church was not a perfect
institution -- nothing with mere people in it was or ever could
be. But it was founded on faith in Almighty God, and its policies
rarely, if ever, strayed from love and charity. ..."
I think Red Rabbit deals with important issues and recommend
Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 25 September 2002.