Literature / Patriot Games
The second Jack Ryan
novel written by Tom Clancy
, and the second one chronologically (until Without Remorse
, it was the first chronologically). The book was published in 1987, and takes place in 1983-84 note
Historian and former Marine Jack Ryan is on a working vacation with his wife and daughter, when he witnesses Irish terrorists ambushing a car in broad daylight. Acting on instinct, Ryan quickly subdues one of the terrorists and kills the other, getting shot in the process. Later on, he learns that the terrorists' would-be victims were the Prince and Princess of Wales, along with their son. Ryan is suddenly catapulted into the limelight of the world stage for his heroism, but also becomes a political target for the Ulster Liberation Army because of his actions. In particular, the terrorist that he captured, Sean Miller, makes it his personal mission to kill Ryan for foiling his mission.
Intended to be the first of the Jack Ryan
series, it was initially only alluded to in what actually was the first book of the series, The Hunt for Red October
. After Red October
's success though, Clancy decided to publish Ryan's prior feats in another book. Among the characters introduced in this novel was Robby Jackson, formerly a Mauve Shirt
in Red October
now to be Ryan's best friend.
The novel was later adapted into a film of the same name
, starring Harrison Ford
as Ryan and Sean Bean
as Sean Miller.
This novel provides examples of:
- Anonymous Ringer: While the royal family is only referred to by title, it's virtually impossible not to realize that Ryan saves the lives of Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and the then-infant Prince William.
- Ascended Extra: Robby Jackson, who had a tiny role in The Hunt for Red October as one of several outsider viewpoint characters, has a much bigger role here and is established as one of Jack Ryan's closest friends.
- Awesomeness by Analysis: The CIA personnel are able to make some solid guesses on how many people are in a desert camp by measuring how many of the tents have heaters running - even in the summer time, deserts get rather cold at night. Thus, they are able to tell when a camp takes on many new residents who take care to avoid being seen by the Spy Satellites, which they infer to be the ULA operatives being trained in secret when combined with various other clues.
- Badass Bookworm: Chronologically, this is the first instance of Jack Ryan actually leaping into action to save the day.
- Badass Bystander: Ryan was initially discussing where he and Cathy would have dinner when they were rudely interrupted by an Irish terrorist attack.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: Sean Miller and Kevin O'Donnell.
- Black Best Friend: Robby Jackson was introduced in this novel as Ryan's friend.
- Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Sean Miller's lawyer attempts to trip up Ryan during the trial by berating him for not doing this to the terrorist he killed.note
- British Royal Guards: Come running to the scene after Ryan subdues the terrorists. One of them, seeing Ryan standing in the middle of the street with a pistol, nearly runs him through with his bayonet before a police sergeant stops him from doing so.
- Busman's Holiday: Jack Ryan, fighting off terrorists even after hours.
- Buxom Is Better: An analyst is able to determine that an unidentified female has to have at least a C Cup, because otherwise, the satellite image wouldn't have been able to depict her cleavage.
- The Cavalry: A combination of the U.S. Marines, Coast Guard, FBI, Delta Force, and Maryland state troopers all show up to take on the terrorists at the end of the novel.
- The Chessmaster: Kevin O'Donnell, leader of the Ulster Liberation Army, plans his attacks as such.
- Closest Thing We Got: When the ULA attacks the ferry that Sean Miller is being transported on to his future prison, the only medical expert on the scene is a veterinarian who has no experience treating gunshot wounds. At least two people end up dying because of this, though the rest do survive.
- Continuity Nod: The only other novel published at the time, The Hunt for Red October, alludes to the events that are portrayed in this one.
- Convenient Misfire: Ryan is able to stop the first assassination attempt, as one of the ULA terrorists has a jammed AK-47. Instead, Ryan and the terrorist shoot at each other with pistols, Ryan kills the terrorist, the terrorist only manages to shoot him in the shoulder. Discussed later, in that the terrorist had taped the magazines end-to-end, which made a jam upon switching the magazines more likely.
- Crusading Widower: Ryan re-joins the CIA in response to the nearly-fatal attack on his wife and child.
- Dirty Communists: The ULA is Maoist, fanatically so. Their ultimate goal is to take over the IRA and remake it into a movement more in line with their ideology.
- Dumb Muscle: Eamon "Ned" Clark, a former PIRA killer, is selected for the first attempt to kill Ryan. He was picked largely because his only true strength was his loyalty, and would be unable to tell the authorities very much in the event that he were captured.
- Enemy Civil War
- O'Donnell's ultimate goal was the elimination of the PIRA leadership and then replacing them as the leader.
- Also happens to Alex Dobbens and his men during the second attempt to kill Ryan and his family.
- Enemy Mine: Alluded to against the ULA. Both the British government and the PIRA want them dead. During an unofficial meeting between members of the two groups, it's suggested that if the British ever develop enough intelligence on the ULA but can't pursue them, the PIRA would be happy to take their intelligence and do the job for them. Several British and Americans are tempted to accept the offer, but the opportunity never materializes.
- Even Evil Has Standards:
- Alex Dobbens is uncomfortable about the attack on Ryan's wife and daughter, but not uncomfortable enough to turn down the money the ULA is offering. When the ULA hires him again for the attack on the Ryan house, he only agrees to go along if Cathy, Sally, and the Ryans' maid (who is also black) are not targeted. This is when Miller begins to believe that Alex is sentimental and therefore untrustworthy.
- Also from the PIRA, though this is more about professionalism than morality: they refuse to target the British royal family, knowing that such an attack would be counterproductive and only cost them public support. This is one of the differences between them and the ULA.
- Evil Only Has to Win Once: The ULA terrorist Sean Miller notes that anti-terrorist forces have to be lucky every time, while terrorists only have to do so once, in a nod to a similar comment made in the aftermath of the Real Life Brighton hotel bombing.
- Exact Words: Ryan walks a fine line during his testimony in court when the prosecutor accuses him of being a CIA agent and he denies it. He did write a report for the CIA and worked at CIA headquarters in Langley while doing it, but as he later admits to his friends and wife:
"I told the truth — barely. All my checks came through Mitre Corporation. Some sort of bookkeeping thing, and Mitre had the consulting contract...That's where the checks came from. That's who I was working for. But CIA was where I was working at."
- Expy: A very subtle one. As noted above, the Prince and Princess of Wales are never named, but clearly are Charles and Diana. Equally, the Queen is not directly named, but the description clearly matches Queen Elizabeth. However, when Ryan watches the Key Ceremony at the Tower of London, the soldiers refer to "Queen Anne's keys." In the Key Ceremony, the soldiers name the current monarch. While many readers likely assume Queen Anne is a historical figure from the time of the ceremony's origin, in fact the dialog tells us that in the Ryanverse, England is ruled by an Elizabeth expy named Anne.
- False Flag Operation: The attempt to kill Ryan and his family on American soil is ultimately this, as it ends up being mistaken as a PIRA operation.
- Freudian Threat: After capturing one of the terrorists, Robby Jackson points a shotgun at his groin and threatens to "make a girl out of" him if he doesn't talk.
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: Invoked in-universe. During Sean Miller's brief stint in prison, he's brutally assaulted by a pair of ordinary criminals, an incident that was arranged by the warden. The anti-terrorism officer assigned to Miller's case arrives just in time to save him, and is infuriated with the jailer for his behavior. Miller, however, assumes that the entire thing was a good-cop-bad-cop ploy in order to make him grateful and willing to talk to the officer, which explains his lack of remorse when he later kills him in cold blood.
- Gilligan Cut: Used frequently to show how intelligence only goes so far in explaining what you can see. On both the good guys and the bad guys sides, they frequently make assumptions based off their surveillance and intelligence, only to have the narrative immediately show that they are incorrect, usually for reasons beyond their control.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.:
- Ryan succumbs to this immediately after saving the Prince and Princess of Wales, realizing that he killed a man (albeit a terrorist) with his own hands. He comes out of it in part by talking the Prince of Wales out of his depression at not having been more heroic during the same attack.
- Ryan has another one later when his wife and daughter are attacked, but it only lasts until he decides he's going to join the CIA to help hunt down the terrorists.
- Hidden Agenda Villain: As the FBI and MI-5 note, the Ulster Liberation Army's motives are completely unknown; they break every "rule" that the PIRA has followed (don't attack the royal family, don't operate on American soil), with no clear end goal. Turns out, O'Donnell simply wants to do enough damage to the PIRA and eliminate their leadership so that he can take over.
- If I Wanted You Dead...: A variant is discussed by O'Donnell and his intelligence officer. The intel man scoffs when O'Donnell says that security around the royals will be impenetrable for a while due to their previous mission, and O'Donnell replies by reminding him that they are trying to kidnap them, not kill them, which is vastly more difficult. O'Donnell then points out that if he just wanted to kill them, they would already be dead.
- If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: Sargent-Major Breckonridge pulls one of these when Ryan finally has Miller at his mercy. Breckonridge says he was perfectly willing to cover for Ryan if he had gone through with it, but "if you'd really wanted to kill him, you would have remembered to cock it. Lieutenant, I had you figured out a long time ago." Ryan himself wonders if Breckonridge is right.
- Imperiled in Pregnancy: Cathy is in the second trimester of her pregnancy when she and Sally are injured in a car accident caused by Miller.
- Interquel: Originally a Prequel to The Hunt for Red October, it became this with the publishing of Without Remorse.
- It's Personal:
- Sean Miller's entire crusade throughout the novel to kill Ryan. While he is chastised for it by O'Donnell a few times, he is ultimately allowed to continue on since the missions still further the ULA's goals. Of course, Miller does become more and more unstable as he fails, eventually culminating with killing Alex Dobbens for rightly calling his failures out after he allows Ryan and the Prince of Wales to escape.
- Miller also shoots Sgt. Bob Highland, the guard who saved him from Prison Rape, twice in the gut specifically to make it a slow and painful death. He wrongfully blamed Highland for having set up the rape as part of a Good Cop routine in the first place. Highland survives, though he has to learn to walk again.
- There's also the fact that Ryan joins the CIA to investigate the attack on Cathy and Sally.
- Discussed between Ryan and his supervisor Marty Cantor. After Ryan discovers the location of a French terrorist group, the information is passed on to the French government, which swiftly captures them and executes them after a military trial. The entire event leaves Ryan deeply troubled, which Marty points out wouldn't be true if the terrorists had been ULA. Ryan responds that that's personal and he can't be expected to feel the same way about it, a point Cantor refuses to concede. Every terrorist attack is personal to somebody.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Fashionable: Cathy has Jack buy some rather nice English suits during their trip to England. It's extended on and commented on throughout many of the subsequent novels.
- Medal of Dishonor: Friendly joke version: Jack is presented with the Order of the Purple Target after he returns to the Navy Academy. When it's pinned it on him, the narrative notes that the joke medal was pinned on Jack's shoulder so the target part of the medal is roughly over where he was shot.
- Mistaken for Servant: The terrorists mistake Sissy Jackson for the Ryans' maid. It's a fatal mistake, because they fail to realize there are unscheduled dinner guests in the Ryan home, and Robby Jackson is later able to get the drop on them.
- The Mole: The ULA's primary informant within the British government, who is responsible for making possible virtually all of their major missions, is Geoffrey Watkins. They also have various moles within the PIRA, from the days when O'Donnell was their counter-intelligence chief.
- Mysterious Backer: One of the few things known about the ULA is that they're being heavily bankrolled and supported, though it's not clear by whom. The backer is eventually revealed to be the Libyan government, which hosts the ULA's training camp and provides them with protection and funding: the Libyans do the same for a number of other terrorists, and are interested in establishing a similar relationship with Alex Dobbens' group. It's hinted that the Soviet Bloc may, in turn, be the Bigger Bad behind the Libyans: the two are shown to have a close relationship, many of the Libyan-based terrorists have communist leanings, and Kevin O'Donnell is believed to have had plastic surgery done in a state hospital in the USSR.
- Needle in a Stack of Needles: Discussed: it's one of the biggest problems with work as a CIA analyst. When Ryan is looking through intelligence reports for information on the ULA, Cantor tells him that it's almost statistically certain that one of them is a vital lead. "But you probably have two or three hundred such reports, and only one matters."
- Not with the Safety on, You Won't: At the end of the novel, with Sean Miller in custody, Ryan is all set to take his gun and personally execute Miller. As it happens, the gun was previously safed by Sar-Major Breckinridge, and he ended up avoiding committing murder, the better for his sanity. Breckinridge says Ryan would have remembered to cock the gun if he'd really wanted to go through with it. Ryan's not so sure.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Only a Flesh Wound: Particularly subverted in the case of Ryan. While he got shot in the shoulder, it ended up shattering several of his bones and barely missing the brachial nerve cluster, which would have rendered his entire left arm useless, on top of nearly bleeding to death on the street. He ends up spending the next month or two in a massive plaster cast that limits his ability to do very much.
- Pants-Positive Safety: Near the end of the novel, after escaping the ULA attack on his home, Ryan absentmindedly shoves a loaded semi-auto pistol down his waistband, with the safety off and the hammer cocked* . Gunny Breckenridge takes the gun out, puts the safety on and gives it back.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Sean Miller thinks completely racist thoughts about the black revolutionaries his group allies with in the US.
- Prequel: To The Hunt for Red October.
- Prison Rape: Miller is brutally assaulted by a fellow inmate. Aside from a brief "Thanks" to the guard who rescues him, he shows little sign of being affected by it. Until he escapes and shoots the guard who saved him in the gut to make it a slow, painful death. Turns out he believed the guard had arranged it the whole time.
- Renegade Splinter Faction: The Ulster Liberation Army to the Provisional IRA.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: After the second attempt on his life by the ULA, Prince Charles decides that he's had enough of simply standing around like a target and actually works to apprehend the terrorists.
- Scary Black Man: Invoked by Robby Jackson in order to intimidate a terrorist, who had very unwisely dropped the N-Bomb towards Robby's wife.
"Jack listened to his friend in amazement. Robby never talked like this. But it was convincing. Jack believed that he'd do it."
- Scotireland: The ULA takes advantage of Americans' tendency to fall for this trope, as it is hard for an American ear to tell the difference between a Scottish and Irish accent.
- Semper Fi: Marines get a fair showing in the novel, from Ryan himself being a former Second Lieutenant, to Royal Marines standing on ceremony in London, to US Marines standing guard at the Naval Academy at Annapolis.
- Spy Satellites:
- Averted in a zig zag fashion. When CIA intelligence analysts use a spy satellite to figure out which of several camps belongs to a rogue faction of the IRA, they are forced to use a still picture and to make some rather ambitious inferences to determine that the camp belongs to the bad guys - the camera can't show them faces. On the other hand, when an DGSE platoon raids the camp at night, the infrared spy satellite watching the action appears to give a perfect 'camera in the sky' view of the action. On the other hand, the raiders complete their mission in a matter of a few minutes.
- The novel and the movie actually focus on the limitations of the spy satellites, noting that the terrorists know when they will fly overhead and thus they hide any suspicious activity. They are only able to get those ambiguous satellite photos by re-routing the satellites to fly over at a new time.
- And the raid on the terrorist camp is deliberately timed to take place when a satellite is overhead, so that the guys back at the CIA can watch it, in real time.
- The satellites are able to tell when a previously dormant camp has taken on quite a few new (secret) occupants, despite their taking care not to be out when the satellites are overhead. Deserts get rather cold at nightnote , so the satellites can easily tell when heaters are being used in more tents than usual.
- The Radio Dies First: When they rescue Miller the ULA disables the radios (and engines) on the ferry transporting him to the Isle of Wight. However they forget about the radio in the police van transporting him on the ferry, which saves Sgt. Highland's life and possibly the entire ferry, as they are able to call in help much sooner.
- The Starscream: During his stint as the PIRA's counter-intelligence chief, O'Donnell actively purged members whose political views differed from his own. When he ended up being found out, he founded the ULA in an attempt to kill the PIRA's leadership and take their place.
- Western Terrorists:
- The IRA and ULA notwithstanding, there's also Alex Dobbens and his group of revolutionaries on US soil.
- Action Directe is a French radical left-wing terrorist group whose Libyan training camp Jack Ryan identifies while looking for the ULA. Similar groups are alluded to in West Germany, Italy, and elsewhere.
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Invoked by Jack Ryan, when identifying a female French terrorist who's later executed by her government thanks to the intelligence he develops, something that troubles him greatly. He admits he wouldn't be nearly as bothered if she were male and ugly.