About John Lilburne



Red Rabbit

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 it.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 25 September 2002.

Other Sites:

tcic.org on Tom Clancy

Review by L.D. Meagher of CNN