When I’m sorry a book ends, I know it was good. I liked Frank Schaffer’s Crazy for God. His honesty, self-deprecating humor, gentle critiques of his Christian context, and scathing rebuke of those who co-opt Christianity for partisan divisiveness - all make me admire him.
Thinking I spend too much time reading essays, opinions, and information, I dove into a big, fat novel, Tom Clancy’s Debt of Honor. 766 pages later, I wondered why.
If I cared about radar technology, war-game theory, economic analysis, etc. I might have a debt of gratitude to Mr. Clancy. He did a fine job of bringing me the inside scoop on how these things work and how various forces and personalities might use them to launch and end a war.
But even in the middle of that war (Japan against the U.S. over trade sanctions) I found myself slogging through the multiple stories built into it, bored, yet full of effort. One track, the war maneuvers off the south coast of India, never quite fit in. Why build it up to take it nowhere? Another, CIA operatives close to Japanese business interests, takes forever to barely do anything, and when that anything comes, it’s rather plain and unsatisfying.
Clancy lets you peek into the highly intelligent inner workings of our government and writes to instill respect for our abilities, but it’s a set-up for his background point: America is weak and vulnerable to attack. Despite having more guns and bombs than the rest of the world combined, it is poor America that is vulnerable.
It gets worse. The renegade Japanese businessman, who launched the whole attack, drawing an unwilling Japan into it, flies his private 747 right into the Capitol Dome during a joint session, killing almost everyone except for our hero, Jack Ryan, conveniently made president. No clunky democratic process, no niggling Supreme Court, just a can-do guy ready to rule.
At least, to his credit, Clancy didn’t demonize the Japanese in general to set up his drama. He also shows a bit of tragic sensitivity for the hapless soldiers on post at unfortunate times, Japanese and American, caught in the fires of surprise attack. But grief for drowned submarine crews, downed airplanes full of innocents, Congress full of Democrats – is almost entirely absent. War’s the way, he believes.
I once asked a saint about our propensity to war. He replied that we war because we take fascination with our minds and the products of our minds. An odd answer, and yet, telling. Here’s a book that exemplifies this. We’re left with lots of info, lots of devices, and lots of carnage, none of it edifying or elevating.