Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
Tom Clancy's most famous series of novels, which focus mainly on CIA analyst Jack Ryan and, to a lesser extent, CIA field operative John Clark. Four of them have been adapted into movies, one is connected to a series of video games, and one film, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, is a reboot of the universe taking some items from the books but not based on any specific novel. Among fans, this continuity is often referred to as the "Ryanverse."The Jack Ryan series (arranged by event chronology, not order of publication)
Red Rabbit — Ryan, a new CIA analyst, must assist in locating a Soviet defector with information about a KGB plot to assassinate The Pope.
The Hunt for Red October — Clancy's first published novel, featuring a rogue prototype Soviet nuclear missile submarine. Ryan is the man on the spot to assist its officers with their plan to defect to the United States. Made into a feature film with Alec Baldwin.
The Cardinal Of The Kremlin — America's top agent in the Soviet Union is compromised, just as he comes into possession of plans for a system that could change the Cold War nuclear stalemate forever. Ryan must play a dangerous mind game against the head of the KGB to rescue the agent, with the balance of power in the Soviet government at stake.
The Sum of All Fears — Arab terrorists get their hands on a nuclear bomb and try to set it off within the United States, and a burned out Ryan is the Only Sane Man in a dangerously paranoid U.S. administration. Loosely adapted into the fourth film as a sort of reboot, featuring Ben Affleck as a newbie Ryan, with the Arabs swapped for Neo-Nazis.
Executive Orders — The war with Japan is over, at a terrible cost. Meanwhile, Iran, sensing weakness in the badly damaged U.S. government, embarks on a campaign of terrorism and biological warfare in an attempt to unify the Muslim world by force. Not only is Ryan's leadership ability called into question like never before, but he and his family have once again become targets of a ruthless and powerful enemy.
Rainbow Six — Badass Clark forms an international paramilitary counterterrorism force, with his future son-in-law and Junior Badass Domingo "Ding" Chavez tapped to lead it into action. Little do they suspect that they'll be facing an enemy within their own country. Adapted into a series of video games.
The Bear And The Dragon — China, facing an economic and political crisis, decides to invade Russia. The U.S. must cement a friendship with its once-greatest foe to fight off the aggressor. But what will Ryan do when the threat turns nuclear?
Teeth Of The Tiger — In the world after Ryan's departure from government, there are new terrorist threats. Ryan's son, also named Jack, joins a Black Ops group dedicated to attacking them on their own turf.
Dead or Alive — The further adventures of Jack Ryan Jr. and his fellow counterterrorists of "The Campus". Also, the elder Ryan comes to the reluctant decision to run for office again.
Locked On — Jack Ryan Junior and the Campus continue their anti-terrorist mission as Jack Ryan Senior runs for President again.
Threat Vector — Jack Ryan Junior and the Campus realize someone is on to them as Jack Ryan Senior faces the Chinese once again.
Command Authority — A new strongman has arisen in Russia, and his rise to power is based on a decades-old dark secret—with President Jack Ryan holding the key. This was the last novel completed by Clancy before he passed away on October 1st, 2013. It was released posthumously in December 2013.
A.K.A.-47: Completely and notably averted in the novels and games. In Rainbow Six however, "the new version of the venerable MP-5, chambered instead for the 10-mm Smith & Wesson cartridge" is erroneously referred to as the "MP-10" (actually the MP5/10, the "MP-10" designation instead used for a clone from the Philippines-based Special Weapons); there has been considerable debate regarding this given the usual amount of attention given to these kinds of details, with Clancy himself saying at one point that he had personally seen and fired the MP-10. In Dead or Alive, Rainbow uses the more common MP5SD3 instead of the aforementioned MP5/10.
The Alcoholic: Klementi Vladimirovich Vatutin from The Cardinal of the Kremlin. It's mentioned that, as a borderline alcoholic, he has difficulty falling asleep at night unless he has a couple of drinks first.
America Saves the Day: A fairly standard plot, especially in later novels, although very explicitly averted in Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of all Fears.
The American President prior to 1988 is never identified by name until Clancy manages to clear the backlog of Real Life Presidents and starts dropping in his own, starting with Bob Fowler. On the British side, Prince Charles and Margaret Thatcher, are also referred to only referred to by title, though Tony Blair does get first-named in The Bear and the Dragon. Similarly, John Paul II is referred to only by first name only once in Red Rabbit by Yuri Andropov.
In later novels, however, Reagan and George H. W. Bush are referred to by name, and the Clinton scandal is alluded to. Perhaps even more blatantly, "the President of Iraq" is assassinated at the start of Executive Orders (incidentally, Hussein is actually referred to by name when discussing the Gulf War, but referred to as "the President of Iraq" when his assassination is brought up).
While Clancy had admitted that his books are something of an allegory to real life, this tendency does cause some of his books to contain some considerable continuity errors, such as the assassination attempt on John Paul II being in 1982 instead of 1981 in Red Rabbit, or Ronald Reagan running for reelection in 1988 in Clear and Present Danger (though in the second case it may well be Walter Mondale who defeated Reagan in 1984).
In Rainbow Six, a genetically engineered strain of the Ebola virus is designed intentionally to wipe out 99% of humanity, save for a "chosen few".
In The Sum Of All Fear, the US and USSR come within seconds of all-out nuclear war.
Arab-Israeli Conflict: Ryan manages to solve it in the span of a few pages by turning Jerusalem into a neutral city-state with Swiss guards and a ruling council of religious leaders. The monumental size of this Hand Wave should be apparent. It also gets the Reset Button pressed on it a few books later.
At one point Cliff Rutledge says that the USA has the longest continual stable government in the world, which is a fairly dubious statement. Whilst the various criteria can be subjectively defined for various ends, many would argue that there are several "continual stable governments" that have existed for longer - the UK has maintained a constitutional monarchy, with various constitutional revisions down the years, since 1707, for example. That said, what Rutledge means is slightly unclear, he could be talking about the USA being the oldest Republic or democracy, both of which are rather more defensible positions.
Given the time between publications of his novels, "time" for the characters gets stretched out as events in Real Life occur. For instance, Ryan leaves government service around 1992 in The Sum of All Fears, but somehow spends only two years on vacation until Debt of Honor, which takes places in 1996, and serves as President for another year or two up until 2001-ish between Executive Orders and The Bear and the Dragon.
More conventionally, Clancy sometimes uses up-and-coming data/speculation when discussing weapons that are going to be fielded in the near-future, which ends up falling flat when it turns out incorrectly. For instance, in Debt of Honor it is mentioned that the next ship in line after John Stennis is going to be the United States, which was the name for Harry S. Truman when she was laid down, but changed afterwards.
The F-22, whose first production models are rolled out for Debt of Honor is referred to as the Rapier. The nickname was later changed to Raptor.
Ascended Extra: Several minor characters later get their own books (John Clark, né Kelly, and Without Remorse) or become far more important later on (Robby Jackson, a very minor background character in one scene in The Hunt for Red October, later is revealed to be an old friend of Jack Ryan).
"The Ryan Doctrine", in Executive Orders. Justified in that politicians are supposed to give speeches, so at least the filibuster is worked organically into the story.
Executive Orders also stops dead in its tracks to hammer the readers over the head about the complexity of the US Tax Code. Could be justified by the fact that it shows the reader what the new president's policies will be, and sets up the media hangings that are attempted on Ryan.
Ryan lampshades this in Executive Orders during his interview with Tom Donner and John Plumber, when he notes that he's been wanting to say all this for years, but is still rather nervous about doing so on TV.
The Bear and the Dragon features a large amount of time dedicated to abortion rights in the US.
Minor ones are dotted about the series, generally reflecting a conservative position - for example, reducing the military budget is never presented as a good idea, America has "the best healthcare system in the world", Good Girls Avoid Abortion, the death penalty and sometimes downright vigilantism are presented positively, and economic cooperation with China is strategically unsound. The series generally doesn't suffer from it however.
Author Tract: Whilst all the books feature Clancy's right-wing politics to a greater or lesser degree, The Bear and the Dragon is notable for featuring nearly every intellectual, economic and political cause celebre of the modern American right. How effective this is depends on ones own political orientation.
John Clark, especially in Without Remorse. In later novels he downplays it a lot and is a reasonably Shell-Shocked Senior.
Ding Chavez is a more typical one, but this is downplayed as he matures.
In Rainbow Six, Rainbow is a Badass Crew, formed from parts of various Badass Armies, though they are portrayed as realistically badass and very, very mortal.
Jack Ryan, ironically, seems to be a Deconstruction of this. Sure, he does get some badassery, but he suffers PTSD, injury, and totally realistic angst and pangs of conscience almost immediately afterwards.
Gennady Iosifovich Bondarenko is Russia's resident Colonel Badass ( later Four-Star Badass) - from personally commanding the defense of the Soviet laser base in The Cardinal Of The Kremlin to being the right claw of the bear in The Bear and the Dragon, if Mother Russia needs some dirty, dangerous work done, Gennady is in the thick of it. Also a Genius Bruiser, being the designer of a laser-communication system and one of the smartest commanders in the series.
The Archer. Lost his family to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, deals with the angst by shooting Soviet planes down and generally making a royal nuisance of himself. Also a Religious Bruiser - he is a devout Muhjihad. Serves as a foil to Gennady Bondarenko, and his death at Gennady's hands is surprisingly moving.
The Archer: Allahu Akhbar! Colonel Bondarenko: Yes, I suppose He is.
Misha. Filitov. Fought for Russia against the Germans, famous for killing Germans whilst on fire. As a Retired Badass, he became so disgusted with Marxist-Leninism in general and Josef Stalin in particular that he took up spying for NATO, and was unbelievably good at it that he escaped being caught for over nearly thirty years. Doubles as a Memetic Badass amongst the entire Soviet military establishment.
America (and to lesser extents other good guys) are portrayed as commanding one, though America seems to get the lion's share.
Subverted and played straight by the Russian Army in The Bear and the Dragon. While they rely heavily on the US for military support and they have an army of conscripts (half of whom did not show up when called into emergency active duty), their tactics are better than the Chinese that have been training for literally years, and they utterly obliterate an entire Chinese army group (about 1,000 tanks and 200,000 soldiers) with brilliant tactics, excellent intelligence and tanks from World War 2. The Chinese head general getting bagged by a sniper right off the bat didn't help.
John Clark, who is already approaching sixty by Rainbow Six, isn't quite what he used to be in Without Remorse, but as noted in Rainbow Six, he's still on everybody's "don't-fuck-with list."
Secret Service Special Agent Don Russel, Katie Ryan's bodyguard, who has grandchildren of his own. When terrorists with AK-47s attack Katie's daycare centre, Don has one second of warning and takes down 3 before getting shot, and kills a fourth with his dying breaths.
Admiral Casimir Podulski in Without Remorse. He has a Medal Of Honor, plus enough kills to make him an ace.
The Bear and the Dragon features an elderly Russian sniper who fought against the Germans in WWII. When China invades Russia some soldiers come to his house to evacuate him, but he insists on breaking out his rifle and defending his homeland one more time. He kills a Chinese general.
Black Best Friend: Robby Jackson rarely fails to have stories about his childhood in Alabama with his preacher father, or his time flying Tomcats for the Navy.
A scene in The Cardinal of the Kremlin has an FBI agent shoot a gun out of a Soviet agent's hand, observing afterwards that he didn't know why he did it, despite being trained and training others specifically not to do it.
In Rainbow Six, Dieter Weber uses his sniper rifle to disable a terrorist's Uzi so that Homer Johnston can deliver a gut shot to make him die as slowly and painfully as possible. In this case, however, they knew they would get in trouble for it and despite covering their butts admirably ("Slapped the trigger a bit too hard, boss."), they are still mildly reprimanded and told that one exception is the limit.
In The Sum of All Fears, Jack is followed by reporters to the home where the mother and children greet him warmly. They accuse him of having a Secret Other Family. In truth, it's the family of one of the soldiers killed all the way back in Clear and Present Danger, and Jack is honoring his promise to help the man's children.
In The Bear and the Dragon, the scientist who assists the US Navy in converting a AEGIS cruiser into a ballistic missile defense platform is Al Gregory, a character who was last seen working on a ballistic missile defense project in The Cardinal of the Kremlin.
Red Rabbit contains a few of these. Most notably, when discussing the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, one of Ryan's coworkers notes that the Afghans are helpless in the face of Soviet helicopters unless an equalizer is brought into play, like the newly-developed Stinger missile. Much like the ones that the Archer wields in Cardinal of the Kremlin...
Puts in a brief appearance in Rainbow Six as the RCMP who pick up the would-be Basque terrorists who tried to hijack the plane that Clark and Chavez happen to be on, but otherwise ignored.
The Japanese pilot who kamikazes his 747 into the US Capitol Building in Debt of Honor took off from Vancouver, and in Executive Orders the RCMP aid in the investigation.
The Bin Laden expy who sneaks into the US in Dead or Alive, comes in through Canada, and the Campus agents who get a tip on an al-Queda courier coming into the country pick him up and start tailing him in Toronto.
Catch Phrase: "I serve the Soviet Union" gets said so many times in Red Rabbit that it's not even funny.
Nikolay Gerasimov in Cardinal of the Kremlin is a mix of this and The Starscream. He suborns the vote of a Politburo member by blackmailing him with his daughter, who is working for British intelligence, and then does the same to Defense Minister Yazov using Filitov, in a bid to unseat Narmanov as the General Secretary of the Soviet Union. Ryan manages to sabotage his plans by counter-blackmailing him with the Red October incident.
Zhang Han San not only instigates conflicts between the United States and various other countries without putting China in direct confrontation in Debt of Honor and Executive Orders, but is also the puppeteer behind Premier Xu in The Bear and the Dragon. He's too smart for his own good, though, as his machinations, while not explicitly discovered until The Bear and the Dragon, are mostly inferred, and China is punished for it.
Church Militant: Daryaei uses religion as a pretense for creating the UIR and threatening their neighboring states, intending to bring all of the world (or as much of it as he can) under the rule of Shi'a.
Code Name: Many intelligence agents on both sides are given code names, one of the most prominent ones being the titular agent of The Cardinal of the Kremlin.
Coitus Uninterruptus: In The Cardinal of the Kremlin, Ed and Mary Pat Foley know that their apartment is bugged by the KGB. This does not seem to have an adverse effect on their sex life, and they even seem to get a thrill out of having sex while the KGB listens.
Combat Pragmatist: Consistently present throughout all of the novels. In the words of several of the commanders in various books, "'Fair' means that I bring all of my men back home alive. Fuck the others."
Contrived Coincidence: In general, lots of what gets the plot moving depends on either someone having a change of heart at the right moment, such as Popov spilling the beans entirely to Clark about Horizon's goals in Rainbow Six, and Team-2 just happening to be at the Sydney Olympics at the time, or someone making a discovery that went ignored by everyone else just in the nick of time.
Cool Boat: You might think every US naval vessel was this, given the amount of loving description Clancy visits on them. The Red October is a straight example, with its unique silent propulsion system.
Raizo Yamata, in Debt of Honor, uses his wealth and influence to engineer a conflict between Japan and the United States.
Crazy-Prepared: The U.S. military, which makes plans for literally every conceivable military scenario. Probably Truth in Television. To keep things interesting, a spanner is usually thrown in the works to keep them from being overpowering (The Navy is too drawn down to effectively fight Japan, a biological attack renders most of the US Army unable to deploy, their own supply line to the front is a single train-track, etc).
Curb-Stomp Battle: American military forces versus just about anybody else, from Debt of Honor onwards. Clark and Chavez versus their various opponents.
Dating What Daddy Hates: It's mentioned a few times that Cathy Ryan's father has never forgiven Jack for quitting his financial sector job to become a teacher (and later a CIA analyst).
Death from Above: The Joint Stand-Off Weapon "Smart Pig," as the Chinese 29th Type A Group Army find out to their misfortune in The Bear and the Dragon.
Deep Cover Agent: Special Agent Aref Raman, US Secret Service, actually a long-term sleeper agent for the Iranians who was inserted into the US as a teenaged "refugee" and spent circa 15 years becoming a naturalized citizen, maintaining an absolutely perfect All-American profile, all so he could work himself into a position of trust standing right next to the President every day. He is one of several sleeper agents similarly placed in the protection details of world leaders; the plot of the novel gets moving when the President of Iraq is assassinated by the one in his bodyguard contingent.
Defeat Means Friendship: One of the rare examples of this trope occurring on a national level, as the post-Cold War period eventually ends up with America's foremost strategic partner being Russia.
Dirty Communists: Played more or less straight until The Cardinal of the Kremlin, but completely turned on its head afterwards, to the point where the Russian Federation actually becomes a NATO member nation in The Bear and the Dragon.
Discussed Trope: Clancy loves to discuss the tropes related to Reality Is Unrealistic, largely via characters commenting on how people expect various aspects of police and spycraft to work because they saw it in a movie.
Do a Barrel Roll: The "Crazy Ivan" maneuver in The Hunt For Red October, a sharp 360 degree turn taken to bring the sub's forward sonar to bear on what was in their "baffles" directly behind the sub before the turn, to make sure someone's not hiding behind them.
Doorstopper: With a few exceptions like The Hunt for Red October and Red Rabbit, Ryanverse novels tend to be on the long side.
Robby Jackson, between The Bear and the Dragon and Teeth of the Tiger.
Also applies to Bob Ritter, who was an important character in the early Jack Ryan novels until he resigned from the CIA at the end of Clear and Present Danger. In Dead or Alive it's mentioned that Bob Ritter died of cancer a few years prior.
Drugs Are Bad: Without Remorse, although the drug dealers in question were also engaged in prostitution and a number of other nasty things. Played straight when Ryan asks for a Presidential pardon for Clark and as soon as he mentions that the people Clark murdered were drug dealers, it's a slam dunk.
Dumb Muscle: Occasionally invoked by government officials regarding their bodyguards/SPOs. They (and the Marines) are usually characterized as "knuckle draggers," though in the case of the Secret Service, most if not all of them have at least a college degree and, in the case of Andrea Price, a Masters.
Eagleland: The first flavor, although both versions are discussed frequently. More specifically, Clancy generally differentiates between the types, generally casting the 'good guys' as Type 1, and Type 2s are generally frowned upon, to say the least.
Elite Army: Generally invoked regarding the United States armed forces. Gennady Bondarenko's main reason for visiting the National Training Center in Executive Orders is because he wants to learn from the Americans how to transform the Russian Army (ex Red Army) from Zerg Rush into this.
Every Bullet Is a Tracer: Averted, unsurprisingly. When tracers are used (particularly in the miniguns on the Pave Low helicopters in Clear and Present Danger), it's specifically mentioned that only one out of X bullets is a tracer round, for the purposes of assisting with aim* miniguns aren't equipped with sights, as they're for area denial and not precision shooting. Given minigunrate of fire, it's also mentioned that it looks like a laser beam at full "rock and roll".
Every Car Is a Pinto: Lampshaded and inverted in Debt of Honor — real cars don't blow up in normal crashes, and the fact that this happened was a clue to a major safety defect in Japanese cars, which precipitates an economic crisis that in turn escalates to a shooting war.
Gennady Iosefovich Bondarenko, who, in an inversion from the two above, is an expy of General Alekseyev.
Although Tom Clancy has never confirmed it, most readers believe that the character of Ed Kealty is an expy of real life US Senator Ted Kennedy. Both of them are Democratic senators from New England, both of them have liberal political views, both come from wealthy families, and both have been involved in sex scandals.
General Secretary of the CPSU Andrey Ily'ch Narmonov is a very obvious expy of Mikhail Gorbachev.
The Emir is an obvious expy of Osama Bin Laden.
The Iraqi president who is assassinated near the beginning of Executive Orders is not explicity stated to be Saddam Hussein, but the similarities are too numerous to be coincidence.
Failure Is the Only Option: Scott Adler's negotiation sessions with America's enemies always inevitably fail despite his skill; they have to, otherwise the United States military wouldn't get the chance to strut their stuff.
Fake Defector: Ryan himself does this in Cardinal of the Kremlin. Part of the reason why it works is because KGB has identified him as a part of the Intelligence Directorate, which is populated by desk weenies with no experience out in the field.
John Kelly does this at the end of Without Remorse in order to evade arrest for murdering so many drug dealers; the spectacular nature of his boat capsizing also results in his corpse not being recovered, though this isn't particularly uncommon for deaths at sea. He also has help from the CIA in replacing his fingerprint records, and continues to live as John Clark even after his Presidential pardon between Executive Orders and Rainbow Six.
This is also done in Red Rabbit to fake the Zaitsev family's deaths from fire. Considerable effort is spent obtaining corpses that died from smoke inhlation, as well as rendering differing features unrecognizable.
False Flag Operation: Major plot points in Clear and Present Danger (by the United States), The Sum of All Fears (by the Arab terrorists), The Bear and the Dragon (by China), and present in several other books.
Used in several of the novels. In particular, the "canary trap" is a tool used by CIA to identify possible leakers by producing several slightly different copies of the same document, and using that to identify which copy is being leaked and narrow down the possible suspects.
The Hunt for Red October takes Agent CASSIUS, one of KGB's longtime moles on the Hill, and feeds him information to camouflage the CIA operation to hijack the eponymous submarine. The disinformation about Red October then becomes a Chekhov's Gun in The Cardinal of the Kremlin.
Without Remorse uses the same idea, spreading different versions of the same information to several possible leakers, which ends up identifying Wally Hicks for subsequent elimination due to his part in burning the Boxwood Green rescue mission.
Debt of Honor actually uses this trope tactically, unlike the above examples. The mole, Chris Cook, is fed information that causes Japan to shift their defensive dispositions in anticipation of a possible Naval Blockade of the Home Islands, which ends up leaving Saipan and Guam wide open for a naval carrier strike.
In the same novel, it's also used with the press for the same purpose in conjunction with the above. Because the news networks have to report the news that Pacific Fleet's only two aircraft carriers have been crippled, Ryan takes the opportunity to press-gang them into continuing to report that the repairs will take months, while John Stennis has her propeller drive put back in order with temporary repairs within a week.
Gaslighting: Used as an interrogation technique by the KGB in The Cardinal of the Kremlin.
Genius Bruiser: John Kelly is, by most standards, a physically imposing man, and has demonstrated his strength multiple times, but, despite having only a high-school level education, has impressive analytical ability and can think on his feet (which is what prompted Ritter to hire him). During his tour in Vietnam, he was nominated for Officer Candidate School on at least three separate occasions, and has since then garnered enough knowledge to discuss subjects with college professors in their areas of expertise. By Rainbow Six, he holds the rank of a simulated Major General.
Genre Savvy: John Clark is this. He even frequently lampshades it.
John Clark gets one when the President of the United States pardons him.
It goes Up to Eleven in The Teeth of the Tiger, in which the ex-President has issued preemptive pardons to all of the Black Ops operatives with blanks for names, dates, and offenses committed. The dubious legality of this is lampshaded by the man in charge.
Guy in Back: Featured in several novels, including Robby Jackson's RIO* Radar Intercept Officer in The Hunt for Red October, who's severely injured by a missile fired by a hotheaded Soviet pilot with wounded pride from an earlier encounter with US forces.
Oleg Penkovskiy, among others, is said to have been the one who recruited Mikhail Semyonovich Filitov, the titular spy of The Cardinal in the Kremlin.
Vo Nguyen Giap makes an appearance in Without Remorse, being one of the officers involved in belaying the orders to kill the American prisoners of war at Sender Green after the failed rescue attempt.
Yuri Andropov, Leonid Brezhnev, and a few others from the real USSR Politburo play a major role in Red Rabbit. Similarly, Pope John Paul II appears as well.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Former Vice President Ed Kealty near the end of Executive Orders. In order to counter President Ryan's executive order quarantining America in the face of an Ebola epidemic, he files a suit to have the order vacated due to violating the Constitution. Unfortunately for him, by having the court refer to the President by name and office, he effectively kills his own claim for the Presidency until Teeth of the Tiger.
Artistic License - Law: Not only was the issue not being litigated in that case, thus precluding a ruling on the merits, but plaintiffs in civil suits are allowed to advance contradictory theories in court (pleading in the alternative). Funnily enough, after making two legal errors for the price of one, Clancy has another character call Kealty "a bad lawyer."
Honest Corporate Executive: In Debt of Honor, Founder/Chairman of the Columbus Group of mutual funds George Winston is practically a saint, as are most of the Wall Street executives in the storynote Or rather, he's just honest and doesn't cheat or use insider information when trading. It doesn't qualify him for sainthood, but he makes a point that honesty in financial dealings is important because corruption is far too easy to discover, and incredibly irresponsible.
Hot Sub-on-Sub Action: More subs attack each other in Clancy's novels than in the entire history of naval warfare. On the other hand, most of these novels are premised on the Cold War heating up a bit, so it's entirely justified: after the '60s, that kind of sub-to-sub combat was not only possible but likely given that NATO and Warsaw Pact subs were constantly on one another's tails.
Humiliation Conga: This is more or less what happens to Torajiro Sato at the end of Debt of Honor. Not only content with having the Americans win at the end of the book, Clancy subjects Sato to several consecutive traumatic experiences, all in more or less the same day. First he watches his brother drown when USS Tennessee plants two torpedoes in his Aegis destroyer, then he has to identify his son's body immediately after the Americans destroy most of Saipan's fighters, then he watches as Robby Jackson lands on the island to request a surrender, then he has to fly his retreating countrymen back to Japan, including Yamata, who has been arrested, and then he comes to the realization that flying passengers to and from a Japan that has lost its honor in a war is all that remains of the rest of his life. This ultimately culminates with Sato parking his 747 on top of Capitol Hill, with most of the United States government in it.
I Am Not Left-Handed: When the North Carolina National Guard goes to the NTC for training exercises against the 11th ACR, they don't let on that they have IVIS training. Regular Army units go to the NTC and get their asses handed to them in engagement after engagement (that's the point). The National Guard detachment completely decimates the 11th in their first engagement. The General in charge of the NTC is not happy with him men.
IKEA Erotica: His first fullblown description in The Bear and the Dragon was mediocre, and that's being charitable.
Incendiary Exponent: Filitov's last heroic feat in WW2 was, after his tank was set ablaze by a German round, to stay inside and shoot back at the tank while on fire, and then continue to lead his regiment for several more days without medical treatment. Of course, his right arm does end up becoming next to useless due to this.
In Its Hour of Need: In The Bear and the Dragon, Ryan chooses to stay in Washington, DC rather than flee to safety after the Chinese launch their one remaining nuclear missile at the city. He points out that this is really, really stupid, while he's doing it, and gets incredibly drunk afterwards to try to forget the horror.
Interquel: Red Rabbit takes place between Patriot Games and The Hunt for Red October.
Issue Drift: The RyanVerse novels have grown more politically focused over time, reflecting Clancy's conservative (and occasionally libertarian) viewpoints.
It Won't Turn Off: Subverted in Debt of Honor — a Japanese executive's television is confused by the infrared signal of a spotting laser used by a Comanche attack helicopter to guide a missile into his apartment.
It Works Better with Bullets: Subverted in Executive Orders, as a suspected assassin is tricked by having his gun's ammunition switched with duds, rather than blanks or left empty as one might expect. This is done because, as a professional bodyguard, he'd immediately recognize the difference in weight.
I Want My Beloved to Be Fashionable: In Patriot Games, Cathy Ryan has Jack buy some rather nice English suits. It's extended on and commented on throughout many of the subsequent novels.
Either subverted or played straight, depending on which side the torturer's on. In Without Remorse, the Vietnamese attempts to torture Americans are criticized as proof of their savage stupidity by a Russian interrogator who uses sympathy to bond with the prisoners and get them to spill the beans much more efficiently. When Clark does it, however, it usually works just fine (though he is not interrogating soldiers, and usually offers false hope).
Kansas City Shuffle: The CIA's plan to fool the Soviet Navy in The Hunt for Red October is based on convincing them that their cover story (that Ramius was framed by a plant) is true by acting as if they too are baffled by the events and conducting massive inquiries.
Kavorka Man: Senator (and later Vice President) Edward Kealty, to the point that he's strongly suspected of drugging and raping at least two of his aides, and only escapes conviction due to political maneuvering.
Kicked Upstairs: Jack Ryan, in Debt of Honor, but actually subverted in that the reason he gets nominated for Vice President is because he himself wants out of the government, and being VP means he can never be recalled to government service again. Naturally, that doesn't work quite as planned.
Kill Sat: The U.S. missile defense system in The Cardinal of the Kremlin works by means of bouncing a laser beam off of orbital mirrors.
Laser-Guided Karma: In Executive OrdersAyatollah Daryaei is literally taken out by some laser-guided karma.
Invoked by a Navy doctor in The Hunt for Red October, when a KGB agent thinks it's a good idea to break out a cigarette and lighter next to a patient who's on 100% oxygen. The KGB agent admits that he did not properly understand the danger.
The assassination of the Premier of Turkmenistan by Daryaei's agents was done this way in Executive Orders to force elections to replace him with someone who would be friendly to the UIR.
The magic assassination drug used by The Campus agents in Teeth of the Tiger is supposed to make it look like the victim died of natural causes. Later, after being hit with this drug one poor sap gets run over by a streetcar, further disguising that it was a hit and not an accident.
Raizo Yamata (and a lot of other major Japanese businessmen) are the sponsors behind all of the ministers of the Japanese government, who largely act as puppets for them in Debt of Honor. In particular, Hirosho Goto, the Prime Minister who succeeds Koga, was chosen by Yamata mainly for his weaknesses so that he would be easy to manipulate.
Zhang Han San is this to Premier Xu in The Bear and the Dragon.
Manly Tears: Both Ryan and Clark aren't afraid to cry when they need to; Ryan when he promises to take care of Zimmer's family for him, Kelly upon realization that Pam lied to protect him to the very end, Clark upon meeting Oreza twenty years after faking his own death, both Clark and Chavez upon the birth of John Conor Chavez.
Middle Eastern Coalition: Iran forms this with Iraq and attempts to expand it to include others forcibly in Executive Orders.
In the main crisis of The Sum of All Fears, the Soviet's nuclear arsenal becomes a major issue, given unconfirmed rumors that some of their warheads have gone missing.
The destruction of the last of the USSR's ICBMs is a plot point in Debt of Honor.
Moscow Centre: A majority of Clancy's fictional works involve the KGB or its successors. Until the last few Ryanverse novels, people of Moscow Centre were always cast as the antagonists, though infrequently as outright villains.
My Secret Pregnancy: An occurrence of this due to family planning laws sets off the principal conflict in The Bear and the Dragon.
A minor one. In the beginning of Debt of Honor, Ron Jones quips to his former CO, now-Rear Admiral Bart Mancuso, that USS Chicago is currently in the Arctic Ocean tracking whales. In Red Storm Rising, Chicago was the boat commanded by Mancuso's Expy Dan McCafferty, who at one point asks his sonarman to report some anomalous contacts as they are traversing the Arctic Ocean on their way to conduct attacks on Soviet air bases... which turn out to be whales.
Later in the same book, Ron Jones talks about his past experience in an exercise against the USS Moosbrugger at AUTEC in a conversation when talking about how to defeat the Prairie-Masker surface sound-masking system, and briefly mentions that Moosbrugger's helicopter pilot was giving Dallas's crew fits. In Red Storm Rising, Ed Morris's helicopter pilot on Reuben James, Jerry "the Hammer" O'Malley, was formerly the chopper pilot for Moosbrugger.
Naval Blockade: Japan is made to believe there's going to be one (see Feed the Mole) to get them to redeploy their forces to combat it.
The New Russia: From The Bear and the Dragon onward, Russia is friendly with the US, even being brought into NATO.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In Executive Orders, the Mountain Men subplot involves some domestic terrorists intent on exploding a truck bomb at the White House. Iran's biowarfare attack, however, causes a travel lockdown that keeps them penned up at a motel long enough for them to get caught. It may come across as a Shaggy Dog Story but the moral is that evil sometimes defeats itself. There's some irony here as well, in that Daryaei himself laments near the beginning that if only all of these plotters would coordinate with each other, they'd be more successful.
Trent and Fellows's parties are not explicitly named, even though it's quite obvious that Trent is a liberal and Fellows is a conservative. Ditto for Fowler and Durling, who belong to the same party as Fellows.
Ryan himself claims no particular party, until he runs again for the Presidency as a Republican in Locked On.
Nothing Is Scarier: In The Cardinal of the Kremlin the KGB uses a sensory deprivation device to interrogate a Russian woman who is spying for the Americans. The device works by depriving her of all sensory input (no sight, no sound, no smell, no touch), and since the human brain is conditioned to expect some kind of sensory input at all times, the experience causes her to react with stark, unreasoning terror. She tells her captors everything just to make it stop.
A Nuclear Error: Averted; Clancy's discussion of the political conditions surrounding the deployment of nuclear weapons is very accurate.
The Taiwanese airliner that gets hit with a missile in Executive Orders bears 666 as its flight number.
The operation number for the KGB operation to assassinate John Paul II in Red Rabbit is classified as "operation 666" and is actually commented upon.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Nobody suspects that Ed Foley is a CIA field agent because he deliberately pretends to be a lot dumber than he really is (it's even mentioned that he's received the highest compliment a spy can get: "That guy's not smart enough to be a spy."). This trope also applies to his wife, Mary Pat, who acts like a ditzy bimbo so that nobody will suspect her.
Odd Friendship: Representatives Alan Trent (a gay Democrat from Massachusetts) and Sam Fellows (a Mormon Republican from Arizona), both members of the House Select Intelligence Committee, who were introduced in The Cardinal of the Kremlin. Later in the series, the oddness of the friendship is explicitly commented upon.
Only a Flesh Wound: Often averted. Gunshot wounds incapacitate and kill or nearly kill several protagonists.
Only Sane Man - Arnold van Damm seems to serve as one for Jack Ryan, especially in regards to toning down Jack's idealism by tempering it with knowledge the real world is not nearly as ideal. May even serve as a meta example by lampshading how Clancy's own views, even in his own literary universe, don't completely work out as they were intended.
Our Presidents Are Different - Jack Ryan seems to be a mix of President Iron and Personable, whereas Ed Kealty is shown as President Playboy, Scheming, and Strawman. Incidentally, between Executive Orders and The Bear and the Dragon, Ryan's election platform largely comes off as selling himself as Jack Ryan, Regular Guy.
Pay Evil unto Evil: Without Remorse, Teeth of the Tiger, and Dead or Alive are largely about this.
Perfect Poison: The succinylcholine used in Teeth of the Tiger. It kills by simulating a heart attack via muscular paralysis, and is rapidly eliminated from the bloodstream, leaving no traces of what killed its victim.
Permission to Speak Freely: Admiral Jackson uses this phrase in Executive Orders to warn the new Secretary of Defense Tony Bretano about the reason that Vice Chief of Naval Operations Bruno DeMarco was appointed to the position, as he was promoted to CNO after the Capitol Hill disaster. Bretano takes this advice to heart later and dismisses him when he refuses an operational order, with Jackson in the room at the time no less.
Pink Mist: Clancy, for all your realistically gory headshot descriptions. This is especially prevalent in Rainbow Six, though realistic in that counter-terrorists are always trained to go for the head.
Prequel: Without Remorse, Patriot Games, and Red Rabbit. Patriot Games was published after The Hunt For Red October, which mentions Ryan's heroics at the beginning of that book in passing. It also includes in throwaway dialogue the insider trading deal that Ryan is investigated for in The Cardinal of the Kremlinto get the Russians to try and turn him, and used as part of a smear campaign against him in The Sum of All Fears.Red Rabbit takes place in between Patriot Games and The Hunt for Red October when Ryan is living in London and working as a CIA liaison.
Qurac: Surprisingly, given the subject matter, Averted. Clancy seems fairly cognizant of the region and its people. In Debt of Honor, he mentions that Iraq can get pretty cold in the winter.
Red Scare: Until the collapse of the Soviet Union and the events in The Sum of All Fears, Cold War tensions between the US and its allies and the Soviet Union are a significant part of the overall plot.
Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: Done with both Clark and Ryan (and to a lesser extent, Ding Chavez). For Ryan, few will ever pass up the opportunity to remark upon the time he dealt with the ULA invasion of his home in Patriot Games. Clark's list is rather longer, ranging from picking up KGB Chairman Gerasimov's family in Cardinal of the Kremlin, to rescuing former Japanese Prime Minister Koga in Debt of Honor, to guiding the bombs to kill Ayatollah Daryaei in Executive Orders.
Reporting Names: While their more formal designations are usually given at least once, generally Soviet hardware is usually referred to by its NATO reporting name.
Reset Button: This appears to have been pushed, as noted above in the Arab-Israeli Conflict entry, in the two most recent Ryanverse books, Teeth of the Tiger and Dead or Alive (much more obviously so in the latter case, since in order to be able to incorporate 9/11 and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars into his plot, Clancy pretty much had to do away with the events of Executive Orders. This also applies to the US/Russian relationship.)
Rich Bitch: The Prime Minister of India in Executive Orders.
Right Man in the Wrong Place: Jack Ryan on several occasions — as he points out, he's an intelligence analyst, not a spy, but keeps getting forced into the role by being on the spot.
Shoot Out the Lock: Defied — in several novels it's pointed out that this does not work in real life. In most cases, the shooter has to use several more bullets and messily destroy the lock mechanism to open the door.
Shown Their Work: Considering that Clancy was an insurance salesman with no prior military experience before becoming an author, a lot of the details included in his works (particularly the earlier books, before he started licensing his own name out to other authors), gained from purely open sources, occasionally to the discomfort of government agencies whose job is to protect classified information that he inadvertently managed to derive from publicly available information. In fact, the descriptions of submarine warfare in The Hunt For Red October are so realistic that it has become one of the only fictional works to appear on the U.S. Naval Academy's recommended reading list.
Shrine to Self: Several military characters are shown to have this attitude. It's called the "I Love Me" wall.
Ron Jones, from his first appearance in Red October, is characterized as one of these; by Sum of All Fears has a doctorate from CalTech, and continues to prove his smartness well into Debt of Honor.
Major Al Gregory from Cardinal of the Kremlin, the technical head of the US anti-ICBM laser system is considered pretty much the quintessential geek, with his reaching Major a result of his technical competence and not any particular martial prowess, although he is a qualified parachutist and a Ranger School graduate.
Smoking Is Cool: Largely averted. While Ryan was a former smoker (and occasionally fell back into the habit after becoming President), most of the actual badasses don't smoke, with the US Army Rangers and Rainbow being specifically singled out at various times. The occasional military personnel does smoke, but Clancy makes it fairly clear that they do so as a stress reliever.
Smug Snake: Quite a few villains fall into this category, including the Prime Minister of India, the drug dealers in Without Remorse, the leader of Iran in Executive Orders, etc.
Sociopathic Soldier: Soviet KGB troops tend to get this treatment, as distinct from the Red Army's soldiers. Even the Red Army soldiers show their disdain for their green-shoulder-board-wearing comrades. This is Truth in Television; following Stalin's use of the KGB to purge the ranks of the Red Army, many soldiers in the Red Army viewed the KGB with distrust and suspicion.
Spy School: Several references are made throughout the series to "The Farm", a CIA training facility in Virginianote Specifically, Camp Peary. For obvious reasons, the CIA has never confirmed, denied or spoken about the existence of a CIA training facility there. In some of the latter books Clark is shown teaching some classes there.
Status Quo Is God: Fought tooth and nail, but ultimately victorious in favor of real world progression. Many of Jack Ryan's, and others', accomplishments are undone or nullified within the next book or two.
In Executive Orders, Saddam Hussein is assassinated and his top generals tuck tail and run, allowing Iran to take over and form the United Islamic Republic. By the time the inevitable war rolls around, the UIR is forming ties with many other would-be member states. But at the conclusion of the novel, Iran and Iraq split perfectly into their pre-union borders and no mention of Islamic unification is ever made again.
In Debt of Honor, Japan and America go from traditional allies to being at war, ending with America victorious and both countries back to being BFF in the next book. After Jack Ryan ascends to the presidency, he makes several changes to policy, including how to prosecute the War on Drugs, simplifying the tax code, encouraging common people to aspire to Congress as opposed to traditional politician, and so on. By The Bear and the Dragon, those common people he helped elect are becoming more and more influenced by the Washington power culture and forgetting their roots. And by Teeth of the Tiger, almost all of his revolutionary policies have either been nullified or blunted by the next president, despite their overwhelming popularity.
A good chunk of the plot of A Sum of All Fears is devoted to a plan to achieve peace in the Middle East. Jack Ryan devises a plan that brings together many of the world's foremost Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders to form the Jerusalem Treaty, which holds even through the largest Islamic terrorist event in history. However, a few throwaway lines in Teeth of the Tiger mention that the treaty eventually fell apart and things went back to the status quo.
The whole point of Cardinal of the Kremlin is America's efforts to get a hold of the Russian plans for an anti-ballistic missile laser weapon while keeping the Russians from getting the American plans for a similar system (and vice versa from the perspective of the Russians). In The Bear and the Dragon, it gets mentioned that despite the info the CIA provided on the Russian system, they were never able to build a laser powerful enough to shoot down ICBMs, allowing the Chinese nuclear arsenal to remain a threat.
A major plot point in The Bear and the Dragon is the CIA was able to get access to the private records of a Chinese Politboro member about what went on in their meetings, allowing them to know what China's leadership decided on in their meetings within a day of them making the decisions. In Threat Vector it gets mentioned that the Politboro member in question died a few months after the events of that book, rendering their source useless and leaving the US government in the dark as to what the new Chinese Politboro is up to.
In The Bear and the Dragon Russia becomes a NATO member and has acquired the resources to attempt to revitalize their economy and bring their nation into the 21st century. In Command Decision, Russia is still a mess, and Grushavoy's successor withdraws from NATO and starts on a plan to revert Russia back into the USSR.
Strawman Political: Clancy makes regular use of strawman liberals, pacifists, and environmentalists throughout his novels. The rare aversions (such as Arnie van Damm) are generally refreshingly honest and as even-handed as one might expect.
Chinese Politburo member Zhang Han San's racism prevents him from ever apologizing and so the Politburo launch a self-destructive war. Even more, while some of the other ministers speak out against the coming war, and try to pursue a more realistic course of action, when the time comes to vote on starting the war, they all vote for it, despite only three of them actually wanting it, out of fear of not voting for it and therefore standing out.
Yamata, in Debt of Honor, orchestrates a brilliant financial maneuver, taking advantage of electronic trading systems to absolutely devastate the American economy in a matter of hours and severely devalue the US Dollar. This is an excellent move and works perfectly. Where he screws up is that he can't leave it at that, and purposely garbles the records of the transactions for the frenzied trading that crashed the economy. If he hadn't done that, the economy would have remained in freefall, but because he did, the plan to pretend the crash didn't happen due to a computer error works perfectly in restoring the American economy. Ryan himself points out that Yamata over-reached.
Take a Third Option: Much of the setup in Debt of Honor revolves around Japan launching their systematic attacks on America's financial sectors and military in such a way that any response would not be possible for months or years. Ryan finds a way to sidestep all of these through clever Loophole Abuse and special operations maneuvering. As President Durling noted when he gave Jack some advice, "I fought in a war where the other side made the rules. It didn't work out very well."
Take That: Clancy takes the opportunity in several of his novels to note that the that none of the things that happen in Ian Fleming's James Bond novels would ever pass muster in reality; in Clancy's own words, that Fleming was a failed British spy. Pot shots are also taken at NBC and environmentalists in Executive Orders and Rainbow Six. Occasionally, Clancy's author filibusters (see above) can veer into this territory.
Tear Your Face Off: Multiple books feature somewhat graphic descriptions of a well-placed headshot plastering someone's face against a wall.
Technobabble: Clancy's lengthy, loving descriptions of exactly how military technology works can occupy whole chapters. A typical example can be found in Sum of All Fears, where a chapter is given over to describing how a thermonuclear bomb detonates. However, the process is plot-relevant, as the engineer who designed it didn't complete a step needed to ensure the detonation was as powerful as intended, providing a crucial clue that prevents all-out war.
Technology Porn: Lots of equipment, especially military technology, gets long, lovingly detailed descriptions.
This Is My Name on Foreign: In Debt of Honor, John Clark attempts to pass himself off as a Russian using the name "Ivan Klerk". When it's pointed out to him that "Klerk" is an extremely uncommon name in Russia, he rationalizes that his grandfather was an Englishman who emigrated to Russia in the '20s and Russified his name.
This Is Reality: in Executive Orders, when Ryan fills Arnie van Damm in on his previous adventures in the CIA after they get revealed on national television, Arnie remarks that in a different universe, Jack would be a hero... which he is, though you wouldn't know it from the way he gets raked over the coals for what he's done.
In Executive Orders, President Ryan is giving a speech at a presidential funeral. Instead of reading the speech written for him, he speaks off the cuff to the children of the deceased president. At a later press conference he later jokes that he's not going to go "off the reservation", and will read the prepared speech.
Later, John Plumber stops reading what's on the teleprompter and starts saying what he believes needs to be said instead. (It's not exactly off-the-cuff: he has his alternate speech memorised, but didn't hand it in to be put on the autocue because he knew he wouldn't be allowed to say it. It is from the heart.)
Title Drop: Done in most of his novels, with a few exceptionsnote Without Remorse, Cardinal of the Kremlin and The Bear and the Dragon are the only ones that don't.
Took a Level in Dumbass: Almost all of Clancy's villains do this at one point or another in most of his books after The Sum Of All Fears.
In Cardinal of the Kremlin, KGB torture techniques are shown in great detail, and rarely do they involve physical abuse. One captured agent breaks from sensory deprivation, and another from sleep deprivation and psychological deception.
In Without Remorse, an American airman captured by the North Vietnamese withstands all the torture they inflict on him, but ends up spilling his guts to a Russian officer who comes in, treats him decently, and talks with him about things that he's interested in talking about. Separately, Clark successfully employs a torture method that would probably make Jack Bauer squeamish on a drug dealer.
In The Sum of All Fears, Clark tortures the masterminds behind the nuclear attack ("It's all in how you work the broken fingers"), but it's subverted in this case: the terrorists give up their information after a relatively long torture session, but they're lying.
Training from Hell: The National Training Center and Negev Training Area in Executive Orders. Marion Diggs, the CO of the NTC, remarks that the training they put American forces through there is deliberately harder than actual combat, and the "Blue Force" almost never wins (one of the units they hosted shortly after Desert Storm, a brigade with actual combat experience, were completely devastated by the OpFor). If anybody ever does break even against the 11th Cav, they can face down three-to-one odds on the wrong end and still decisively defeat the enemy.
Unreliable Narrator: Clancy writes a lot of enemy plotting from their POV (as the protagonists rarely meet the antagonists directly). As said enemy plotters are frequently ideological and/or mentally unbalanced, their assessment of an operation can differ radically from what it will or could actually achieve.
Alex Dobbins' group in Patriot Games and the PIRA offshoot they assist in their strike in the US.
Marvin Russel and his brother are part of the American Indian Movement, an organization that uses dealing drugs to fund their terrorism.
The Mountain Men in Executive Orders are particularly virulent Right Wing Militia Fanatics who distrust anything other than the military that's even remotely connected to the federal government.
Wham Episode: The final chapter of Debt of Honor, which ends with a 747 being kamikazed into the Capitol Building. This became Harsher in Hindsight after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: It's discussed in Debt of Honor (and regretted by Bart Mancuso) that due to the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States Navy was greatly downsized and is incapable of most of the things it was able to do in the past, despite still being able to take on every other navy in the world single-handedly or at least until Stennis and Enterprise are crippled by torpedo attacks.
Wish Fulfillment: When almost all of Congress is killed at the end of Debt of Honor, they are replaced by ordinary Americans who just want to get things done. In a bit of a subversion, this fails spectacularly by the time of The Bear and the Dragon, when Arnie Van Damm notes that all the ordinary people started off with noble intentions, but the nature of Washington politics eventually turned them into politicians, just like those they replaced.
Played straight in Dead or Alive by the terrorist group, who kills all but two people who worked with them while they were setting up for their attacks. The two exceptions are the prostitute hired to provide sex for the group's leader and the woman who was extracting the information from the Yucca Flats employee.
Subverted in the opposite direction in Rainbow Six. Failing to use this trope with respect to Popov is what gets Horizon Corp's schemes busted.
Also subverted in Debt of Honor; the villain hires a programmer to create a computer virus for him to carry out part of the villain's attack against the United States. Once the programmer finishes the job the villain considers killing him, but ultimately decides against it because the hacker may have a contingency plan to expose the plot if he's killed.
Several people helping the terrorists in The Sum of All Fears are killed as soon as their usefulness is believed to be at an end. In one case, however, the lead engineer assembling the nuclear bomb hadn't quite finished installing one critical part, and so when the bomb goes off, it's just a small fraction of its intended power, a 15 kiloton bomb instead of the 500 kiloton bomb the terrorists were planning.
Film adaptations with their own trope pages include: