Literature: The Cardinal Of The Kremlin

The fifth novel in the Ryanverse, chronologically, and the third to be written.

18 months after the events of The Hunt for Red October, during the START talks of the early 80's, Jack Ryan serves as a CIA representative during the negotiations as both sides work to reduce their nuclear weapon stockpiles. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, a mujihaddin called "The Archer" fights against the Soviet oppressors, using American Stinger missiles to terrifying effect. Back in the US, the secretive Tea Clipper program seeks to develop a laser defense weapon against nuclear missiles launchers, fearful that the Soviets are working towards the same end.

And in the middle of it all, a US agent known to a very select few as CARDINAL sends top secret Soviet information to the CIA. And he's just been compromised...

Focusing much more on spy games than any other novel in the Ryanverse, The Cardinal of the Kremlin is set against the backdrop of the "warming" of the Cold War, as the US and USSR start serious talks to reduce the threat of nuclear war while still butting heads around the world. The Strategic Defense Initiative (AKA Star Wars) features prominently, as does the similar Soviet program, and there's plenty of technology porn and spy thriller, though very little action.

This book contains examples of:

  • Badass: The first novel in which John Clark appears. Through innuendo and guesswork, the people that meet him assume he is very much this trope, though how accurate their assumptions are is not examined until other novels.
  • Call Back: The events of The Hunt for Red October have long-lasting implications for everyone involved in this story, and frequent references are made to that story.
  • For Want of a Nail: The action that causes the detection of CIA's longest-lived and most valuable agent is a bump on a train. It causes a courier to drop a roll of film containing sensitive documents, which itself isn't that big a deal. But he does it within view of an agent of the KGB's counterintelligence department.
  • Not So Different: Sergey Golovko is introduced as Ryan's counterpart at the treaty talk, and is friendly with Ryan. Though they are on opposite sides of the debate at hand, they find that they agree on quite a lot.
  • Spy Thriller: The best example of it in the Ryanverse, as most of the action is the work of spies and the agencies that are trying to catch them, rather than military action.
  • Technology Marches On: The work of the SDI scientists seems to be on the verge of a breakthrough for the entire novel. As we now know, SDI lasers were barely ever more than a pipe dream, and never had a working prototype, especially not a free-electron laser (SDI focused on chemical and X-ray lasers instead).
  • Zerg Rush: The Afghan fighters are capable of using tactics, but generally prefer to rush their targets from ambush.