without remorse by tom clancy

One of the [very] few novels I have ever reread is Without Remorse by Tom Clancy – and I’ve reread it several times: each time noticing something I hadn’t before, and each time reacting quite viscerally to how the book’s main character (I hesitate to call him a “hero”) goes about his desired objective.

If you’ve never read any of Tom Clancy’s novels, this is probably the best one to start on (and yes, I’m a little biased!)

Mr John Clark is introduced for the first time (by release date of the novels) in Clear and Present Danger – but Without Remorse goes back to the “founding” of Mr Clark. As the book opens, we are introduced to one John Terrence Kelly – a demolitions diver working to sink damaged oil rigs in the gulf after a hurricane during the height of the Vietnam war.

What transpires next sets-up the rest of Mr Clark’s career – his wife is tragically killed in a vehicle crash while he’s on a dive, and he “hermitizes” himself on the island they used to live on in the Chesapeake Bay. On a routine visit to Baltimore to buy food stuffs for his home, he picks-up a hitchhiker and ends-up falling in love with her. She’s had a mottled past, but is on the road to recovery – encouraged my John’s friendship and true interest in her. However, he gets a little too curious about where she’s “from”, and takes her back to the seedy part of Baltimore where she had been “working”. John’s overconfidence in his abilities (he’s been on a couple tours with the SEALs in Vietnam) proves to be mortally dangerous to his companion, Pam, and nearly costs him his life, too.

After a wild turn of events from what he thought was “safe” and “curious” brings Pam back to her former employers, and then costs her her life, John takes matters into his own hands, reverting to his training, and learns the new “jungle” he is now operating in no less dangerous than those around the world where “little yellow people in black pyjamas” are fighting against (and with) his compatriots.

John T Kelly (later John Clark) does what we all wish we could do when someone hurts someone we love: just like Dirty Harry did what we all wanted to when dealing with corruption and evil – but either think is wrong, or is too far “outside the rules”, so we don’t (or we believe in the system, no matter how flawed: and characters like Mr Clark give us hope that there are people who take care of what needs to be taken care of – whether it’s inside or outside the system).

The book cover describes the novel as a “tour de force” – and it most certainly is: hardly a page goes by without action, force, violence, and redemption. This is not a story for the weak-stomached, and not for the young: it is “adult” in nature – so be aware 🙂

I have unusually-high expectation, based on this being my favorite novel, but I just found out that this is being turned into a motion picture with a tentative 2011 release date: needless to say, I can’t wait!

  • Quality of writing: 5/5
  • Entertainment value: 5/5
  • Historicity: 4/5 (this takes place in and around the Vietnam war, and is plausible in its timings, and correctly cites many actual events during the story)
  • Overall: 4/5 (I suppose there could be some improvement – but I don’t know how)