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Literature: Net Force

Net Force is a series of technothriller novels developed by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik, and written by Steve Perry and Larry Segriff, chronicling the work of an FBI cybercrime unit tasked with protecting the world from terrorists and hackers.

The original novel begins with the original Director of the unit being assassinated, and unit member Alex Michaels being promoted to Deputy Commander and tasked with discovering the plot behind his friend's death. Along with team members Assistant Director Toni Fiorella, programmer Jay Gridley and Net Force military commander General John Howard, Michaels discovers a Russian hacker's plot to wreak havoc on cyberspace and buy governments using illicit money from security contracts, along with an assassin who is trying to kill him.

In total, 10 books were written in the series, along with a Spin-Off series called Net Force Explorers, which followed a group of young hackers who protected cyberspace from various threats.

The series has several similarities to Clancy's other licensed series like Op-Center, although it was aimed at adult audiences (whereas Explorers was aimed at the young adult market). An made-for-TV adaptation of the first novel was produced in 1999, starring Scott Bakula as Alex Michaels, and changing many elements from the original book.

The Net Force series contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: The first four books cover Tyrone's teenaged romantic interests, rejection, taking up a new hobby, meeting a new girl, and learning a professional sport. Then they're never brought up again and he's demoted to a minor character who's lucky to get a single scene or two in any given book.
  • Absence of Evidence: Jay tracks other computer experts in this way in several of the books, looking for the absence of traffic flow that would be expected to be there.
  • Action Girl: Toni. The most competent martial artist in the cast, whose skills are used repeatedly. Also doubles as a Cute Bruiser.
  • Adult Fear: In Point of Impact, Toni over-trains while pregnant, leading to some atypical bleeding and a very realistically-portrayed fear of miscarriage. In several books, Alex worries that his first marriage's bitter divorce will irreparably traumatize his young daughter. In a later book, Howard's son ends up in the line of fire as well, which we see from Howard's perspective which later convinces him to retire.
  • The Aggressive Drug Dealer : Part of the duo in "Point of Impact". Not with his normal product, but with some extra he finds...
  • Amoral Attorney: Mitchell Townsend Ames is a spectacular example.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Jay Gridley.
  • Ass in Ambassador: Subverted in one novel, where the antics of the usual types at an embassy are used as cover by the intelligence agents there. A covert intelligence agent's wish is to be dismissed by opposing counter-intelligence as a drunken fratboy, so he plays dumb to determine who's drunk and who is just pretending to be.
  • As You Know: Almost every book has an early conversation bringing up what happened in the previous books between characters who were there at the time.
  • Badass in Distress: Toni is taken captive in Point of Impact, which ordinarily wouldn't be an issue, if she weren't pregnant...
  • Banana Republic: Guinea-Bissau is portrayed in this manner in Hidden Agendas.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Howard wishes for a more serious test of his skill as a commander and his unit's skill in battle. He gets it.
    • Alex dares ponder that he's bored at work. Crisis ensues.
    • Thorn, in Changing of the Guard, laments that he's smarter than everyone and wishes he had more intellectual challenge. Cue two successive instances of putting his foot in his mouth by saying something stupid to his new colleagues.
  • Big Applesauce : The origin of Toni Fiorellia.
  • The British Empire : Bringing it back is the goal of the villain in "Night Moves".
  • Bullet Proof Vest: In the intro to the first book, a character's life is saved when a bullet strikes his vest. It also mentions that he had replaced the uncomfortably heavy ballistic plate with a Kevlar insert. It still stops the bullet, but it hurts like hell.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Drayne ultimately does this to his father.
  • Can't Stop The Signal: Minor example, in the original book scandalous and compromising photos of a government minister are sent to every major news service in the country simultaneously to make sure they can't be missed.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: The SWAT team and the FBI doesn't arrive until after Tyrone has already defended Baby Alex with the new pistol his father just gave him.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Leading Net Force is a bit of a stressful job.
  • Changing of the Guard: The name of one of the novels, and Exactly What It Says on the Tin - every main character retires from the agency, except for Jay Gridley.
  • Chekhov's Gun: If a weapon shows up in the first ten chapters, it will be used in the climax, without fail.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Peel in Night Moves.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: More like Net Force good, the main FBI shop okay, CIA amoral opportunistic jerks, NSA evil, DEA evil...
  • The Consigliere: Sgt. (later Lt.) Julio Fernandez to Col. (later Gen.) John Howard. An inferior officer he knows and trusts and respects to give a different and critical opinion on the current matters.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Lots.
    • Toni, Alex, and Howard all count as this on the hero side, perfectly willing to use overwhelming force, ambush, or bring a gun to a knife fight to win. Howard at one point claims he'd cheerfully use combat stims if they didn't have serious drawbacks.
    • Most of the villains-of-the-week count as well, though not all. In the original book, the Selkie disguises herself as an elderly woman and attempts to assassinate a target by braining them to death with a heavy wooden cane, because fair fighting is for suckers. Ruzhyo, in the same book, prefers to assassinate a target with a high-powered rifle at long range, abandoning any pretense of "fairness."
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination: Steve Day is assassinated in a hail of automatic weapons fire and explosives in the middle of Washington, D.C., so the real killers can make it look like a hit by The Mafia.
    • Net Force at first doesn't realize the attack on Jay Gridley was targeted, writing it off as random road-rage violence, because they assumed a professional assassination wouldn't force a car crash and then shoot at his target in the midst of a busy freeway with dozens of witnesses.
  • Cool Car: Jay gives himself several in VR simulations. Alex works on classic cars as a hobby, including Plymouth Prowlers, Miatas, classic Chevy Bel-Airs, and so on.
  • Cool Chair: More than a few villains give us oddly detailed descriptions of their chair.
  • Cool Gun: Played With: A Cold Open on a military operation plays out realistically, until the squad commander shoulders his decidedly non-regulation Thompson submachine gun. A Proscenium Reveal occurs soon after. However, said commander - Howard - does actually use it in meatspace, as a sort of tribute to his law enforcement ancestors.
    • Howard also uses a Smith & Wesson .357 until he trades it in for a P&R Medusa, an unusual multi-caliber firearm that can shoot nearly anything in the .355-.357-.38-9mm range.
    • Ames collects cool guns, including a rare .45ACP Luger.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Cox in Changing of the Guard.
  • Couldnt Find The Body: One of the books opens with a terrorist bombing caused by an unstable, edgy college kid. The sole victim was vaporized to the point all they could find was her teeth.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: A fight against terrorists in the Ukraine is this, the terrorists being totally untrained and unprepared. Howard laments that it wasn't a real test of skill for him as a commander, and Julio reminds him to Be Careful What You Wish For.
  • Darker and Edgier: Changing of the Guard ends with Net Force bombing a hitman's house, making it appear that his employer had done it, so the hitman would assassinate his employer. This was done because they couldn't pin anything on him legally. It ends with the main cast consoling themselves that sometimes the law and justice aren't identical.
  • Dead Man Switch: Used in the end of Hidden Agendas with a grenade.
    • Also less directly, more attacks on the Internet are set to go off if The Dragon doesn't get out alive.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Cox wants to hide his status as a Russian sleeper agent from way back when in the Soviet era.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: In the original novel, the action stops so that Net Force Commander John Howard can lecture his son on the dangers of digital piracy.
    • Given a revisit in Cybernation where Howard's son argues back that the modern model of intellectual property is outdated and unenforceable in an era where information can be freely copied and distributed, whether it's moral to do so or not.
    • In Cybernation, Jasmine Chance at one point muses about why intellectual property is important and why kids who want media for free are ripping off artists.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Morrison's research funding gets cut. So he builds a death ray and drives two Chinese villages and part of Portland, Oregon to massacre themselves in a crazed frenzy. He dreams of getting rich so he can rent the Goodyear Blimp and make it broadcast "I told you so!" on a billboard.
  • Downer Ending: Night Moves ends with the bad guys caught or dead, but Alex and Toni's personal lives in shambles, both resting bitter and alone.
    • Changing of the Guard ends with Net Force secretly bombing Natadze's home so he'll blame Cox and assassinate him, because Net Force couldn't pin any crimes on him in court. The characters grimly console themselves that sometimes justice is more important than the law.
    • Also the series as a whole. It ends with all the face characters retired and Net Force taken over by the military, and the narrative repeatedly implies that without its star cast, Net Force will go from a highly effective organization to just another lackluster agency of paper-pushers while the real talent moves into the private sector.
  • The Dragon: One in every book, though notably in Night Moves, Bascomb-Coombs and Goswell each considered the other to be their Dragon.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Played straight with some characters, averted with others, in Point of Impact. Alex discards a drug that would make him a super-powerful warrior in a fight because of this. Earlier, Howard makes a fairly reasonable and compelling argument that a very similar drug could be used to do good in the military's hands and he'd give it to all his men if it could be formulated to not be addictive or dangerous to its users.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Cybernation, a fully VR nation, is mentioned in the original book and Hidden Agendas, but doesn't actually come up as a plot until the sixth book, Cybernation.
    • Corinna Skye briefly shows up in Cybernation, but isn't really important until State of War.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first book doesn't follow the pattern as well as later books, Howard actually resents Alex, Jay is significantly more introverted and avoids the rest of the cast whereas later he's more playful with them, and Tyrone is a nerdy indoor-only kid and computer geek.
    • The first few books have painful, awkward sequences of Tyrone and his middle-school dramas and troubles. After Breaking Point, these storylines are dropped and don't show up again.
    • Howard's religion is barely even mentioned in the first few books, but towards the middle of the series he reminds you in every other scene that he believes in the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • Everybody Owns A Ford: In the online virtual reality, everyone drives a Dodge Neon by default. One character idly wonders how much it cost Chrysler to set that deal up.
  • Evil Counterpart: Jay gets two. Keller in Cybernation and Lewis in The Archimides Effect.
  • Fiction500: The oil corporation Cox runs is so large and pervasive, they can't go after him legally for fear of kicking off an economic depression.
  • Field Promotion: Non-military example: The assassination of Alex's boss in the first book is what kicks off the plot and gets him promoted to acting director and Toni to Alex's former job as deputy director.
  • Five-Man Band:
    • The Leader - Alex, the commander of Net Force. Later replaced by Thomas Thorn.
    • The Lancer - Col., later General Howard, Net Force's military leader. Later replaced by Col., later General Abe Kent.
    • The Smart Guy: Jay Gridley
    • The Big Guy: Julio Fernandez, not a physically large man but the best shooter in Net Force's military teams.
    • The Chick: Toni, Alex's second-in-command.
  • Future Slang: Some of the books contain downright painful sequences involving some of the main characters' teenaged children, most notably Colonel Howard's son, using made-up techno-slang like DFF (Data Flowin' Fine) meaning good, or "you duplicate/dupe" as a "cool" form of "you copy". Michaels, at one point, agonizes over the bizarre names of the electronica artists his kids listen to (DogDurt being one of the worst offenders).
    • Jay, worrying that he's getting old after speaking to the (13-year-old) Tyrone, awkwardly tries to use "cool" teen slang in conversation with his boss. Alex is more than a little confused by this and has to ask what "nopraw" (no problem) means.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Jay and most of the Explorers.
  • Going Native: Ruzhyo's co-conspirator, Grigory the Snake, seems to enjoy life in America and embody many of its qualities, much to Ruzhyo's displeasure.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Net Force is a wing of the FBI, a civilian law-enforcement agency, but commands a military wing under the auspices of the National Guard (strangely, it never mentions which state National Guard, but it's implied they're part of the Virginia National Guard since they're based in Quantico.)
  • Government Agency of Fiction: Net Force is a fictional wing of the FBI and the National Guard (it's complicated).
  • Gratuitous German: The Zee-ster's bodyguards are named Storm and Drang. Counts as a Bilingual Bonus.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Jay is standoffish and frequently annoyed with Joanna when she first joins Net Force, as he has an overly inflated opinion of his own skills. He warms up later to her in the book.
    • Toni does not take it well the first time another woman takes a serious interest in Alex.
    • Alex isn't exactly pleased when his ex-wife remarries.
  • Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee: Happens to Alex repeatedly, in almost half the books. A major factor in convincing him to retire, too.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: A couple Big Bads are taken down this way.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Throughout the series, characters use virtual reality to demolish code, bypass filters or crack firewalls in a simplistic fashion. Lampshaded at one point - Jay notes that he and the other tech expert of the team could just sit down and spend hours at a terminal finding and debugging everything by hand, but it just wasn't as fun as taking on mutant sewer rats in an infested city with military shotguns.
  • Honor Before Reason: An odd villainous example, the Selkie still plans to kill Alex Michaels despite her employer turning on her.
    • Abe Kent goes after Eduard Natadze personally in Springboard because he feels an honorable need to face him down personally instead of bringing in a SWAT team.
  • Hope Spot: In the original novel, Director Steve Day gets the idea to make a big heroic run after most of his entourage is slaughtered, due to being a great sprinter on his high school's football team. His Bullet Proof Vest stops a slug that would have hit him square in the heart. It looks like he's going to make it...and then he gets sniped in the head.
  • Humiliation Conga: Junior's story in State of War is pretty much one long example of this starting from his screw-up in blackmailing a congressman.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Net Force does get justice on Cox in the end...but not in their normal fashion.
  • I Have This Friend: A variation: Tyrone Howard has a crush on a girl in school, and is tutoring her in computers and VR. She is dating a short-tempered football player. He asks his father, John, a hypothetical question about a small country receiving non-military aid from the US, and how one would go about convincing said country to break an alliance with a powerful rival and join the US instead. John knows exactly what his son is actually asking about, and tailors his answer accordingly.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Actually written by Steve Perry, but part of the Tom Clancy franchise.
  • Inside a Computer System: Shows up in the Net Force Explorers book One Is The Loneliest Number
  • It Amused Me: "Bobby" Drayne went into narcotics formulating and developing despite being smart enough to make millions in legal pharmaceuticals because he finds legitimate work boring. At one point he drugs an entire FBI office just as a joke. Then all but brags about it to his father. Who is a career FBI agent.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Comes up on occasion. Plays a major role in Point of Impact in which the FBI, Net Force, DEA, local and state police, and the NSA all have unclear and contradicting jurisdiction on the case.
  • Karma Houdini: Eduard Natadze is the only villain to successfully and peacefully retire.
  • Kirk Summation: Howard explains exactly why taking a hostage at knifepoint isn't a good idea: If the hostage dies, he dies.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In Point of Impact, Jay at one point excitedly runs into Alex's office and tells him he's figured out what's really going on in the case. When Alex thinks he's talking about the main investigation, Jay corrects himself and says he's figured out the B plot, not the A plot.
  • Little Useless Gun: The Selkie carries one in the original novel for discretion and concealability, and makes up for its size and weak stopping power by shooting someone in the eye with it.
    • Ruzhyo also has a fondness for small .22 pistols, as do a few other villains-of-the-week. Almost once a book, someone derides "elephant guns" and the need for large-caliber as a substitute for accuracy.
    • Junior carries twin Ruger .22 revolvers, and at one point muses that people deride them as being useless compared to their "rhino-stoppers", but nobody has yet taken him up on his challenge to let him have just one shot first.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Several villains, especially in State of War and Night Moves.
  • Married to the Job: This ruined Alex's first marriage. Although his ex-wife's behavior didn't help.
  • May-December Romance: Played with. Howard puts a 21st-century red dot sight on his antique Smith & Wesson revolver, and outright calls it a May-December Romance.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: After being gifted a kris, a ceremonial Indonesian dagger, the narrative explains the beliefs in their magical powers. Immediately after Toni starts keeping it at her bedside as myths describe, she finally hooks up with Alex. After they break up in Night Moves due to a misunderstanding, it isn't until Toni is taken to see a private collection of krises that the misunderstanding is revealed. Toni repeatedly wonders if the dagger actually is magic.
    • Guru de Beers has a few other examples as well. Toni awakes in the middle of the night at the same time Guru has a stroke in Point of Impact, and in Cybernation Guru shows up out of the blue to take care of Baby Alex and prophecises that Toni will soon be busy at work. Alex calls and asks for help not ten seconds later, and is suitably spooked at the timing.
  • The Metaverse: How VR is portrayed. In a bit of a twist, everyone can make their own metaverse, which translates one user's scenario to another - so user A and user B might see traffic as cars on a highway while user B may see traffic as logs floating down a river, even though they're viewing the same set of data, though inserting themselves into another's scenario isn't a problem, as Jay finds out when the new electronics expert shows up in his cowboy simulation.
  • Mexican Standoff: At the end of Hidden Agendas.
  • Mildly Military: Net Force's military wing is technically under military jurisdiction and is led by a Colonel (later promoted to General). However, they seem to have maybe a platoon or two worth of troops at the most, barely follow any command hierarchy, don't bother enforcing regulations like fraternization, and the general in charge of the unit often leads his men into battle personally.
    • In Springboard, Net Force is taken over by the Marine Corps and becomes a fully military agency.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong: Ruhzyo is noted to be a big guy, and misses working on his farm with his wife, and would prefer waking up in the frosty-cold Russian mornings to gather firewood and chop it up with his muscles than doing computer work.
  • My Defense Need Not Protect Me Forever: Alex is outmatched by Roberto, but he needs only hold out until his backup arrives to shoot him.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Used a few times, usually in friendly trash-talk between Howard and Julio.
  • Never Live It Down: In-universe - In an early book, Jay decides to do some mild field work on his own instead of calling the proper agency, figuring it didn't sound like a big deal. This turned into him being kidnapped by thugs. In the next several books, the rest of the team are still making fun of him for it.
    • In-universe: After converting to Buddhism, Jay becomes a vegetarian and rejects an offer with his co-workers to go get burgers by saying he's "giving up eating flesh." This does not go over well.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Toni gets into silat after witnessing an elderly woman beat up four adult thugs attacking her simultaneously.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Morrison was totally under Net Force's radar...until he met with Alex Michaels personally in the hopes of keeping himself off Net Force's radar.
    • Drayne puts a clue in his own drug capsules out of cockiness, which provides the key breathrough in the case.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: Comes up on occasion. Usually, when a POV character doesn't know an attacker's name, the narrative will refer to the attacker by a nickname, usually brought on by their appearance.
    • Played for Laughs when Toni accidentally calls Rusty "Spandex" after their first meeting.
  • No One Could Survive That: Eduard forces Jay's car off the road at highway speeds. Then shoots him in the head with a .357 Magnum. Then watches his car (spurred on by reflexes pressing the gas pedal) careen into the road and get t-boned by a truck. Naturally, the very next page informs us he's in stable condition.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: The quantum supercomputer in Night Moves. It actually had a self-destruct device as a Dead Man Switch to boot.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: We see Alex tangle with senators and congressmen who hate him and hate Net Force for no apparent reason.
  • Old Shame: In-universe. Cox's main motivation is to conceal the fact that he once signed up as a Soviet sleeper agent. Even though he hadn't really done anything wrong, it would be disastrous to his business reputation.
  • Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: Has an entire book dedicated to this!
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Toni signals her distress when Tad breaks in by saying she would take a nap after her workout - this after her doctor told her, in no uncertain terms, not to work out at all or risk her pregnancy.
  • Passed Over Promotion: Abe Kent has been stuck at the rank of Colonel for decades because he crossed an incompetent Marine officer candidate whose father was politically important.
  • The Peter Principle: Chance fumes about it, being a main reason she left legitimate corporate work and went on to become a villain.
  • Playful Hacker: Jay Gridley, the most care-free, easy-going, and fun-loving of the team, serving as their VR expert.
    • Keller in Cybernation is Gridley's dark counterpart and is just as playful as Gridley.
  • Police Procedural: An odd example, but every book is generally about Net Force investigating and capturing a criminal breaking the (fictional) Net Laws.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: One of the villains is a Southern-Fried Genius ex-con who is extremely good with computers - and knows his way around prisons, thinks any gym that uses any sort of machine is for pussies, looks down on nerds, and has a race fetish for Asian and black girls. Both he and NetForce lampshade how bizarre it is for a redneck to have picked up hacking. His last words are lamenting about how he got killed by a "nigrah" (Howard, in this case).
    • Roberto (a black Brazilian-American) at one point figures he's disguised enough because he thinks all black people look the same to whites.
  • Product Placement: Starting after the first couple of books, most books have suspiciously detailed and loving descriptions of real-world products, especially firearm products such as Crimson Trace grips, that goes well beyond the usual Tom Clancy technical descriptions. Several characters are shown using such products and then gushing about how amazing they are, how much they cost, and where one can buy them. Lampshaded by Howard, who asks Julio repeatedly if he works for these companies.
    • In-universe: The first book states that the standard, default car in a popular VR scenario is a Dodge Neon, and Jay idly wonders how much Dodge paid to set that up.
  • Production Foreshadowing: The concept of the "Net Force" is hinted at in the third Op-Center novel, Games of State.
  • Proscenium Reveal: In the original novel, we see Howard and a strike team in the midst of a military strike that is revealed to be in virtual reality.
    • In Springboard, Seurat meets with a Saudi prince in downtown Paris, which goes fine until the VR simulation is hacked...
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Roberto is a descendant from Brazilian slaves, and practices the same martial art they developed in secret.
    • The white supremacists in Breaking Point see themselves this way.
  • Psycho for Hire: Occasionally the source of The Dragon. Comes up in Hidden Agendas most prominently.
  • Rape as Backstory: Rachel Lewis in The Archimedes Effect.
  • Rare Guns: Howard's P&R Medusa, a gun that saw an extremely limited production.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Howard worries that a civilian boss (Michaels) won't really "get" Net Force's military wing and won't know how to lead military men appropriately. Howard relaxes when Alex acknowledges he's not a military-minded person and promises to have a hands-off leadership.
  • Retirony: The Selkie plans to retire after just one last job.
    • So does Morrison after the sale.
    • And both villains in Hidden Agendas.
    • Drayne at one point promises to sell off a big batch and take an early retirement after a too-close call.
    • Ruzhyo actually successfully retires in the first book, then comes back in the third for one last job.
    • Roberto intends to retire with a hoard of gold once the Cybernation job is finished.
    • In general, this trope comes up a lot with Net Force villains. It's practically a Running Gag.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Howard uses a Smith & Wesson Model 66 in the first few books, then trades it for a P&R Medusa. In almost every book, there's a scene of him pondering the advantages of a good .357 revolver in contrast to the H&K polymer semi-automatics issued by Net Force. He uses his sidearm in combat almost once a book.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Tad goes after Michaels personally to avenge Drayne's death, even though he knows he's likely to die.
  • Right Wing Militia Fanatic: In Breaking Point. They provide a safe haven for Morrison and Ventura, even though Ventura doesn't really believe in their cause, he's capable of smiling and nodding along at least.
  • Running Gag: In every book, someone says something unkind aloud such as "shut up" or "up yours" in response to their inner-voice, only for someone near them to think they were talking to them.
    • Jay Gridley uses a different-themed VR scenario in every book, from the wild west, to jungle safari, to driving hot-rods on highways and more, and getting interrupted by something important.
    • A villain taking a stroll around whatever city they've arrived in and just seeing the sights and contemplating their past exploits.
      • This tends to turn into As You Know as the villain tells themselves stories of what happened to them previously.
    • Every time Tyrone Howard attends a boomerang contest, it's interrupted by an act of terrorism.
    • Tasers are useless. Howard gives more than one lecture as to why, and any time a character uses a taser, it's at best ineffective.
  • Scary Black Man: Roberto terrifies Keller because of this. Several people liken him to a trained but still wild beast.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Comes up several times with rich villains, but taken Up to Eleven with Cox in Changing of the Guard.
  • The Scrounger: Julio often comes up with rare, unusual, or prototype equipment, and is known as the house wheeler-and-dealer who can scrounge up equipment for the Net Force operatives. He's provided more than a couple Chekhov's Guns this way.
    • Invoked by name: In The Archimedes Effect, General Kent calls him the best scrounger he's ever seen.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: The superweapon in Breaking Point - everyone involved in the exchange of the data gets killed, and the data itself is lost with no remaining copies.
    • In the end of Changing of the Guard, it's revealed Cox didn't have anything to worry about - his name wasn't even on the list.
    • Invoked by name in Point of Impact; Bobby Drayne seems fond of using them as metaphors to explain some kind of point. Tad even calls the trope out by name.
  • Shoot Him, He Has a Wallet!: Invoked by a minor character. He realized something was fishy, and burst into a room holding a pen to look like a gun. The would-be assassin turns to shoot him, and is taken down by her original target in turn.
  • Shout-Out: One of the Explorers books has a character mention a "spy from a 'flat-film'" who has an assistant who makes gadgets for him. In one of the books, Jay wears a tuxedo and a jetpack in a all-but-in-name homage to From Russia with Love.
    • Drayne has a fake ID by the name Richard Kimball, the protagonist of The Fugitive.
    • Jay makes a lot of pop-culture references in general.
    • In State of War, Ames (an avid gun collector) owns a rare Luger pistol in .45ACP, one of only two extant copies, made for US Army testing in 1900. This is the same rare gun, the "million dollar Luger," that Gordon Gekko brags about owning in Wall Street.
    • Ames and Skye share a joke about Rocky and Bullwinkle after eating dinner.
    • Jay makes a scenario straight out of Indiana Jones in Changing of the Guard.
    • Jay quotes "All your base are belong to us" to an Army general in The Archimedes Effect. The general is not amused.
  • Shown Their Work: A lot of examples. The narrative often goes into detailed digressions on random subjects like competitive boomerang throwing, the martial art of Silat, Indonesian history and culture, Buddhism, and of course, firearm ownership and shooting, sometimes with only a tangential relationship to the actual plot.
    • In-universe: Jay has a habit of making his VR sims and scenarios ridiculously detailed, even on parts that don't matter, as a matter of pride and to show off the care and research he puts into scenarios.
  • Sic 'em: After Net Force overcomes the first few attacks on the net in Cybernation, Keller launches several more after glowering at their success for a page or two.
    • A similar event happens in State of War with Net Force defeating the first couple of viruses, only for much more to be released.
  • Smug Snake: "Bobby" Drayne micro-engraves one out of every four of his illegal pill capsules with hints as to how to find him. At one point he drugs an FBI office simply because he thought it would be funny and he would get away with it.
  • Sniper Duel: In Point of Impact, Howard is attacked in the streets by a rifleman from a few hundred yards away. Then he remembers the match-grade competition-style sniper rifle in his trunk...
  • Spinoff: Net Force Explorers, a series aimed for younger audiences that follows a group of teenage hackers affiliated with the organization.
  • The Starscream: Peel in Night Moves.
  • Storming the Castle: How the situation is sometimes resolved. Done most prominently in State of War.
  • Straw Hypocrite: Jasmine Chance doesn't really believe in Cybernation, but she can toe the party line to get support.
    • The leader of the white supremacists in Breaking Point is implied to not really believe in racial superiority and had no history of racist beliefs before founding the movement. Ventura believes his real motive is just to be a leader and have power over others.
  • Strictly Formula: Most of the books follow pretty much the exact same format, with the same smart-villain-militaristic-Dragon dynamic between the villains. Occasionally one thelement or another is changed up, but the books in general follow a pretty predictable pattern, down to being able to guess the events of any given chapter. Every book has the same number of chapters, too.
  • Stun Guns: Everyone in Net Force are issued these, but in a Running Gag they're always totally useless and almost nobody actually carries them. Net Force law enforcement agents when they want to roll non-lethal use these, seizure-inducing lights, and puke gas to take down areas without casualties.
  • Superweapon Average Joe: The villain of Breaking Point is a clumsy, awkward professor who lost his research grant funding. He meets Alex Michaels in person, and Alex even dismisses him as a villain because he's so average. And then he builds a giant death ray...
  • Take a Third Option: In the original novel, Net Force faces the options of demanding Plekhanov's extradition, which might cause him to flee or be protected, or let him take over the Ukraine and become legally untouchable. So they invade the Ukraine with a military force and kidnap him.
    • In Changing of the Guard Net Force is faced with either letting the villain walk or facing years of costly legal battles. They bomb his hitman's house and frame him for it, and the hitman turns on his employer.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Howard retires in Point of Impact and is back by Cybernation. He retires for good after the events of State of War.
  • Terrible Trio: Most of the books have this for the bad guys, following the general rule of a mastermind planner with a mercenary trigger-puller and a mercenary VR/tech specialist.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Although it's an entire branch of the FBI with presumably thousands of employees and even a military wing, it seems like 99% of the work done is done by maybe a half-dozen people. The branch commander, his deputy, and the General in charge of the entire military wing act on their own in the field in every book, sometimes without any support or backup at all. The narrative repeatedly points out how stupid this behavior is all the time.
    • Ultimately deconstructed in State of War as part of the lawsuit against Net Force, when their in-house attorney points out that this unusual behavior does not look good to a jury and that they are screwed in a civil suit.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: We're treated to Jay's hallucinating various VR scenarios after he's put into a coma.
  • Throw It In: In-universe. Jay insists on historical accuracy in his VR settings, but occasionally adds something that he stumbled upon by accident or simply because it's awesome regardless of accuracy.
  • Trick-and-Follow Ploy: Net Force tries this to discover Ames' identity. It fails.
  • Troll: Thorn is harassed by a troll in Changing of the Guard and fantasizes about abusing his position in Net Force to humiliate the troll.
  • Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: Silat, practiced by both Toni and Michaels, is all about fighting dirty. Hand-to-hand techniques are only if you can't get a weapon. A blunt instrument is better than nothing, a sharp instrument better still, and it's even more preferable to just use a gun. In Cybernation, Alex considers mind games and trash talk perfectly good Silat practice if it gets in your opponent's head and affects their ability to fight. Or, as he states it, "Cheating is just good Silat."
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: Most of the books are stated to be happening ten years in the future (the original book, released in 1999, sets the story in 2010), and integrates virtual reality elements that influence the plot.
  • Two Decades Behind: Toward the end of Breaking Point (2000) which takes place in 2011, Alex rents a "six-year-old Datsun". Datsun has been Nissan since 1987, meaning this hasn't been possible since 1992.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Julio and Joanna. The latter is stated to be exceptionally beautiful, multi-talented, highly intelligent, and almost literally fending men off with a stick; the former is a plain-looking Latino sergeant.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Net Force? Aren't they just a bunch of computer geeks? Cue a Tom Clancy military assault sequence...
    • Toni is underestimated more than a few times, being written off as a short woman. Whoever makes this mistake quickly is introduced to deadly Southeast Asian fighting styles. In fact, she was introduced to her instructor this way - a few gangbangers thought that the stooped-over, tiny, extremely elderly woman who "smoked like a chimney" was an easy target, and Toni remembers the way she threw them around without even breaking a sweat.
  • Unperson: The Selkie, in the usual "hit(wo)woman has erased everything of her past to operate more efficiently" style.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Any time they have a military operation that isn't explained, it'll go off like clockwork, or at least not have more than minor complications.
  • Villain Has a Point: Ames makes some pretty good points against Net Force in court.
  • Villains Out Shopping: We regularly see villains doing ordinary mundane stuff like shopping, musing to themselves, taking public transportation, or so on.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: Tyrone does not take it well when he's forced to kill in self-defense at the age of fifteen, and is later seen crying and highly upset. Also counts as Reality Ensues.
  • Violence is the Only Option: Sometimes it's a hard-won fight and sometimes it's a Curb-Stomp Battle, but the villains never turn themselves in peacefully or are talked down by police and are never peacefully apprehended without a paramilitary operation first.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Bobby Drayne has serious daddy issues.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Several of the villains, but not all of them. The Cybernationalists, for example, really believe they're launching a full-scale political and technological revolution that will better mankind, even if they have to hurt people and cripple economies to do it.
  • Western Terrorists
  • Wham Episode: Changing of the Guard. Especially the ending.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never find out what happened to Joan in State of War.
    • After Breaking Point, we never hear of Tyrone's interest in professional boomerang, his girlfriend Nadine, or his best friend again.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Tad calls Michaels out on helping the NSA and DEA cover up the rogue agent and blaming Drayne for firing at them when he hadn't.
    • Net Force's own lawyer gives Alex, Toni, and Howard a pretty epic rant on their tendancy to run off into the field personally.
  • Wicked Cultured: Morrison listens to classical music and has other trappings of an intellectual high society.
    • Ames has all the hallmarks of this as well.
    • Eduard Natadze is a classical guitarist. And also a hitman.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman/So Beautiful, It's a Curse: The other tech expert for NetForce monologues about how she's considered extremely attractive, despite the fact she thinks her sister is way, way more good-looking. She considers it to be a negative - she's frequently hit on and complimented out the wazoo, and the boy she lost her virginity to claimed to be seeking a relationship for her intellect, but secretly did it to brag to the other biology majors he scored with the hottest chick in college.
  • Worthy Opponent: A strangely high number of computer-savvy villains identify Jay Gridley as this.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Junior has no problem attempting to kidnap Baby Alex.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The villain of the week occasionally tries this.

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alternative title(s): Net Force
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