Jack Ryan

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Tom Clancy's most famous series of novels, featuring CIA analyst Jack Ryan. Four of them have been adapted into movies, and one is connected to a series of video games. Among fans, this continuity is often referred to as the "Ryanverse."

The Jack Ryan series (arranged by event chronology, not order of publication)[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Without Remorse -- The Backstory of Badass CIA operative John Clark, who goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against a vicious drug gang following the murder of his girlfriend.
  • Patriot Games -- Ex-Marine Jack Ryan, an American tourist in London, rescues the Prince of Wales from Irish terrorists and comes to the attention of both the IRA and the CIA. This was the second book to be filmed, with Harrison Ford as Ryan.
  • 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.
  • Clear and Present Danger -- A rogue adviser to the President launches a covert and illegal war on the Columbian narcotics industry, and Ryan must rescue the soldiers before they are abandoned to their fate. The third film from the series and the second to star Harrison Ford.
  • 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.
  • Debt of Honor -- After an economic crisis, Japan decides to launch a new war of territorial acquisition. Ryan must help his country figure out how to fight back on two fronts: economic and military, with a navy dangerously drawn down by past presidents.
  • 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 and Junior Badass Ding Chavez join an international paramilitary counterterrorism force. 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?
  • The Teeth of the Tiger The U.S. is now engaged in a global war on terrorism, in response to the September 11th attacks which occurred in the Ryanverse as they did in the real world. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq occurred in the Ryanverse continuity, and the Jerusalem treaty signed in The Sum of All Fears has failed, as Israelis and Palestinians went back to fighting each other.
  • Dead or Alive - The Emir, mastermind of the terrorists from the previous novel, has even grander attacks planned against the United States, and the Campus, set up to do for the US what official intelligence agencies cannot by Jack Ryan Sr., now must stop him for good.
  • Locked On - Jack Ryan Sr. is running for president again., while the current president tries to find ways to discredit Ryan. In the process, John Clark becomes a fugitive while a thought defeated enemy tries to use these efforts for revenge against the Campus.
  • Threat Vector - Ryan has been sworn in as President of the United States after having been elected the previous year. Meanwhile, the Chinese have recovered from their defeat in The Bear and the Dragon, this time intent on taking out Taiwan, and this time, they are much better prepared, to the point the Campus finds itself facing a mirror image of itself when they try to interfere.
  • Command Authority - Ryan Sr. finds himself enemy to a new Russia, now back to its role as antagonist to America as an anti-American strongman named Valeri Volodin now plans to restore Russia back to her former glory by force, even to the point of seizing the Ukraine. And old friend of Ryan Sr. leaves him a clue as he lays dying to how to stop Volodin, and it also ties into events from Ryan Sr. own past, all the way back before The Hunt For Red October, event that have left Ryan's only hopes in a man from his past with a grudge against him, one his own son must nonetheless protect, as that same man can expose a deadly secret from Volodin's own past as well.
These novels provide examples of:
  • Action Duo: Clark and Chavez.
  • AKA-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); 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 shot "the MP-10" (a submachine gun manufactured by an entirely different company, Special Weapons). In Dead or Alive, Rainbow uses the more common MP5SD3 instead of the aforementioned MP5/10.
  • 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.
  • And Some Other Stuff: In the afterword to The Sum of All Fears, Clancy admits to fudging some details of the workings and construction of nuclear weapons, in an effort to not help anyone with unkind intentions involving nukes (though he also acknowledges, if somewhat cynically, it probably won't actually stop anything).
  • Animal Wrongs Group: The antagonists in Rainbow Six.
  • Anonymous Ringer:
    • 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).
  • A Nuclear Error: Averted; Clancy's discussion of the political conditions surrounding the deployment of nuclear weapons is very accurate.
  • Anyone Can Die: While Clancy has kept a rather high amount of recurring characters alive, several who were longtime characters do wind up dead, mostly post-series reboot.
  • Apocalypse How: 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".
  • 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.
    • Clancy even wrote himself a potential "out" in the same book this happens, with a terrorist who is against the peace occurring noting Israel would be the one to screw it up because they suck at peace while being good at war. Commentary in The Teeth of the Tiger indicates he's was likely right.
  • Ascended Extra: Several minor characters later get their own books (John Clark, nee 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).
  • Asian Store Owner: Mrs. Zimmer.
  • Author Filibuster:
    • "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" (extremely debatable), 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.
  • Badass:
    • John Clark, especially in Without Remorse. In later novels he downplays it a lot and is a reasonably Shell Shocked Senior.
    • Ding Chavez is more typically, 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 a Badass. Sure, he does get some badassery, but he suffers PTSD, injury, and totally realistic angst and pangs of conscience almost immediately afterwards.
    • Gennady Iosipovich 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 Grennady Bondarenko, and his death at Grennady'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.
    • Patrick O'Day, an FBI agent and hardass lawman. Also a Badass Bystander, see below.
    • The USSS is definitely a World of Badass, especially Andrea Price and the service Grandfather, Donnie "Don" Russell.
  • Badass Army: America (and to lesser extents other good guys) are portrayed as commanding one, though America seems to get the lion's share.
  • Badass Bookworm: Jack Ryan, especially in the movies.
  • Badass Bystander:
    • Ryan foils an IRA assassination plot while on vacation in Patriot Games. This moment sets the stage for the entire remainder of the series.
    • When terrorists storm a day care center in Executive Orders to kidnap the President's young daughter, the only other parent there to pick up the kids is an armed FBI agent.
    • In Rainbow Six, three terrorists try to hijack an airplane... with Clark, Chavez, and Alistair Stanley on board. Their plan doesn't quite succeed.
    • Again in Rainbow Six, during a terrorist attack on an amusement park, one of the performers dressed as a Roman Centurion attacks one of the gun-wielding terrorists and injures him with a spatha.
  • Badass Grandpa:
    • 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 center, Don has one second of warning and takes down 3 before getting shot, and kills a fourth with his dying breaths.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: The terrorists in The Sum of All Fears impersonate TV network service personnel to get their bomb (disguised as a commercial VCR) into the Denver Skydome. Their German terrorist accomplices get onto a Soviet army base in East Germany by donning Soviet officer uniforms, and pretending to be there for a surprise inspection.
  • 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.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Played straight, Lampshaded, Subverted Trope, Discussed Trope, and averted in several places.
    • 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.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: An important plot issue in Executive Orders; see Deep-Cover Agent, below.
  • Boom Stick: Clark is a master of improvised weaponry, including a trick like this in Without Remorse, using a shotgun shell at the end of a stick. The investigating cop lampshades it by saying, "This one's gonna end up in a medical journal."
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Played almost entirely straight (he just barely manages not to need them) when the explosives specialist in the terror cell from The Sum Of All Fears realises that the mysterious object found in a farmer's field is not in fact an electronic-jamming pod as he'd first thought, having established that it's not a conventional bomb, but is actually a nuclear warhead. Understandably, this is not in any way Played for Laughs.
  • British Royal Guards: Patriot Games has a the more serious depiction of them, as when the Prince of Wales is attacked by terrorists the guards come running. One almost stabs Ryan to death with his bayonet because Ryan happened to be holding a gun (albeit emptied and nonthreateningly) at the scene of the attack.
  • Call Forward: There's usually at least one in each Prequel novel.
    • Without Remorse features a young Jack Ryan talking with his dad about joining the Marines after getting his degree to help pay off his tuition. Of course, we all know how that ends.
    • 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...
  • Canada, Eh?:
    • 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.
  • Captain Ersatz: For most of Without Remorse, John Clark acts and talks an awful lot like The Punisher.
  • Career Killers: John Clark
  • The Cartel: Clear And Present Danger
  • Cassandra Truth: What Jack Ryan spends most of The Sum of All Fears spouting. He is ignored mainly because of Liz Elliott's personal dislike for him and her undue influence on Bob Fowler. Despite being proven right time and time again, it takes him literally intervening in the Hot Line to avert the ultimate crisis.
  • Catch Phrase: "I serve the Soviet Union" gets said so many times in Red Rabbit that it's not even funny.
  • The Chessmaster:
    • 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.
    • Mark Charon in Without Remorse is noted for his "coldly analytical mind" and he is certainly the only chessmaster to come close to any kind of success. He is especially good at Xanatos Speed Chess, and it seems obvious that without him, Tony and Henry's drug operation would have collapsed. If he had been only slightly better at concealing his emotions, he might just have made it out of the warehouse alive.
  • China Takes Over the World: The premise of The Bear and the Dragon.
  • Chinese With Chopper Support: The PLA appeared in The Bear and the Dragon.
  • 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.
  • Closest Thing We Got: A veterinary surgeon is drafted into providing care for gunshot victims in Patriot Games. Treated realistically in that he fails to save at least one life.
  • Code Name
  • Cold Sniper: Played straight, inverted, and Deconstructed in different novels.
  • Cold War: Setting of all the books prior to Debt of Honor, though it is still referenced in later books.
    • Becomes very important to the plot in Command Authority, which even briefly flashbacks to slightly after Red Rabbit at one point. At the same time, it causes a Series Continuity Error, referencing real world historical figures from the same period instead of Clancy's stand-in versions, even though there would have been no real plot conflict either way.
  • Continuity Nod: All over the novels and some of the games.
  • Contrived Coincidence: See the entry on that page. 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. To be fair, much of this is justified since it's uncovered by analysts who are doing what they're paid for.
  • 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.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: John Brightling and co. in Rainbow Six. They are also militant environmentalists who seek to achieve the near extinction of the human race.
  • Crazy Prepared: The U.S. military, which makes plans for literally every conceivable military scenario. Probably Truth in Television.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: John Clark's killing of a drug dealer via decompression chamber, in Without Remorse. Although the guy was an Asshole Victim in every possible way, Clark still struggles with the morality of the situation.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: American military forces versus just about anybody else, from Debt of Honor onwards. Clark and Chavez versus their various opponents.
  • 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.
  • Death Equals Redemption: While not exactly a villain in this case, in Sum of All Fears Harry Ricks apologizes to his XO for the way he commanded USS Maine shortly before they're hit by one of Admiral Lunin's torpedoes. Thankfully, it ends better for most of the rest of the crew.
  • 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.
  • Defector From Commie Land: Used in Red Rabbit, The Hunt for Red October, and The Cardinal of the Kremlin.
  • Derelict Graveyard:
    • Used as a drug dealer base in Without Remorse.
    • "Bronco", in Clear and Present Danger, speculates that the Boneyard in Arizona is where the a captured druggie DC-7B will eventually be dumped, given that one more old aircraft in storage there won't be particularly noteworthy.
  • Did the Earth Move For You, Too?: A throwaway joke in The Sum of All Fears, as terrorists are digging up an unexploded bomb... Though it's some time before they realize that it would have made the Earth move on a much, much bigger scale than they had first anticipated.
  • 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.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: A sizable portion of The Sum of All Fears consists of Elliot trying to ruin Ryan's career and marriage because he objected to her bad manners in Clear and Present Danger.
  • Do a Barrel Roll: The "Crazy Ivan" maneuver in The Hunt For Red October.
  • Doorstopper
  • Drama Bomb: See Wham! Episode, below.
  • Dramatis Personae: Included in most of the later books.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Intentionally invoked by terrorists in Rainbow Six to (unsuccessfully) discourage pursuit.
    • Robby Jackson has a tendency to handle his car with the same... panache, you might say, as he does his F-14.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Robby Jackson, between The Bear and the Dragon and Teeth of the Tiger.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The justification for the plot of Clear And Present Danger. Subverted when the methods the government uses to attack the drug trade are shown as clearly worse than the trade itself. Played straight, however, in 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.
  • Eagle Land: 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.
  • Empty Quiver: Forms the basis of the plot of The Sum of All Fears.
  • Enemy Civil War: Part of the plan for a CIA operation in Clear and Present Danger after Emil Jacobs is killed by the Medellin Cartel.
  • 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[1]. Given minigun rate 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.
  • Exact Words: In the novel Clear and Present Danger[2], Jack Ryan says to Cortez that he won't be prosecuted. True to Ryan's word, he isn't prosecuted. He's handed back to his former agency in Cuba, where his fate is most likely to be far less pleasant than what it could be under the US criminal justice system.
  • Expy:
    • Bob Toland in Red Storm Rising reads like a copy of Jack Ryan in several respects, although he doesn't singlehandedly save the day. Similarly, Dan McCafferty acts suspiciously like Bart Mancuso from his glory days of commanding Dallas.
    • 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.
    • Choi Ji-hoon is basically Kim Jong-un, Serial Number Filed Off edition.
    • Valeri Volodin, who is the first named leader to take control of Russia after Grushavoy, is a Vladimir Putin expy.
  • 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.
  • Faking the Dead:
    • 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.
  • Feed the Mole: Used in The Hunt for Red October, Without Remorse, and Debt of Honor. The former was disinformation about the acquisition of the titular submarine, and the latter was to determine the source of the leak about the Song Tay raid. The disinformation about Red October then becomes a Chekhov's Gun in The Cardinal of the Kremlin.
  • Fingore: In The Sum of all Fears, John Clark interrogates a pair of Arab terrorists and breaks their fingers to get information to help track down those responsible for their attack.
  • 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.
  • "Get Out of Jail Free" Card:
    • 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.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Averted in The Sum of All Fears, when Ryan's drinking and stress fatigue nearly destroy his sex life (and marriage).
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: The Sum of All Fears was written prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, but set chronologically afterwards. However, it's only a partial example as it does discuss the country's impending collapse, merely getting the particulars of how it turned out wrong.
  • Guy in Back: Featured in several novels, including Robby Jackson's RIO[3] 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.
  • Helicopter Blender: Lampshaded and averted in Rainbow Six.
  • Heroic BSOD: The Sum of All Fears involves Jack Ryan experiencing a drawn-out, stress-induced breakdown - one of the few times in the series that Ryan has not been up to the task at hand. This is due to finding himself working for a hostile administration without much in the way of support.
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • 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.
  • History Marches On: 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.
  • 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.
    • You Fail Law Forever: 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."
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Pamela Madden in Without Remorse, is a Deconstruction of this concept. After befriending John Kelly and getting clean from drugs, she is ruthlessly raped and murdered by her former pimps.
  • 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 story.
  • Hot Line: Sum of All Fears. Played realistically in that instead of the stereotypical "red phone" with national leaders directly conversing, it's a teletype connection with translators on both ends. Using this form of communication nearly backfires, however, because President Fowler, having chosen to believe faulty intelligence information, suspects that he's talking to someone other than the Soviet Premier.
  • 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.
  • The Hunter: John Kelly in Without Remorse deliberately fits himself into this persona while hunting the drug dealers who killed his girlfriend.
  • 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.
  • IKEA Erotica: His first fullblown description in The Bear and the Dragon was mediocre, and that's being charitable.
  • 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.
  • Interquel: Red Rabbit takes place between Patriot Games and The Hunt for Red October.
  • Interservice Rivalry: All over the place. CIA vs. FBI, FBI vs. Secret Service, KGB vs. GRU, etc.
  • Issue Drift: The RyanVerse novels have grown more politically focused over time, reflecting Clancy's conservative (and occasionally libertarian) viewpoints.
  • It's for a Book: While doing the research for The Sum of All Fears, Clancy was able to get the specifications for all the machinery needed to build a nuclear bomb delivered to his doorstep. He then pointed out in his author's notes that it's all commercially available within the U.S.
  • 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.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: John Clark uses this a lot, particularly in Without Remorse and The Sum of all Fears; in the latter it's also a case of Mutilation Interrogation, and it fails in that the badguys were planning all along to lie under interrogation to falsely implicate Iran in their bomb plot.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: In Debt of Honor, a Corrupt Corporate Executive and his patsy Prime Minister conspire to get Japan to pull the same gambit it tried in World War Two.
  • Just in Time: Subverted in Red Rabbit. Ryan manages to successfully stop Boris Strokov right before the assassination attempt... only to have the Turkish gunman shoot The Pope and be apprehended. Though considering that it's based on the actual event...
  • Kaiju Defense Force: in Debt of Honor. Many of them are portrayed sympathetically.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: The CIA's plan to fool the Soviet Navy in The Hunt for Red October revolves partly around this.
  • Kavorka Man: Senator (and later Vice President) Edward Kealty, to the point that he drugged and raped 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.
  • Knight Fever: Ryan is knighted in Patriot Games as a reward for rescuing the Prince of Wales.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol:
    • Admiral Cutter, in Clear and Present Danger, is confronted by Clark with committing suicide or facing trial for flagrant violations of U.S. and international law. He chooses the "easy" way out.
    • Subverted in Debt of Honor, when Raizo Yamata asks for an opportunity to commit Seppuku, but is refused.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident:
    • 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.
      • Subverted in that the KGB agent wasn't actually trying to kill the patient, and in fact desperately wanted the man to live and regain consciousness (as he had vital information). He was just completely ignorant about hospitals, and thought that the doctors were forbidding him to light up simply because they were concerned about the health hazards of smoking.
    • 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 MO of the Caruso brothers in Teeth of the Tiger. The poor sap who gets run over by the streetcar dies this way.
  • The Man Behind the Man:
    • 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.
  • Mnogo Nukes
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • Note to muggers (and nosy cops) -- John Clark is not the kind of person you want to mess with on a dark street at night.
    • Also used in Rainbow Six when terrorists attempt to hijack a plane that's coincidentally carrying several senior members of the titular counterterrorism team.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: An occurrence of this due to family planning laws sets off the principal conflict in The Bear and the Dragon.
  • Mythology Gag: 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.
  • 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.
  • No Party Given: 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.
  • Not with the Safety On, You Won't: A subversion at the end of Patriot Games. Ryan is all set to shoot a terrorist in cold blood, but the gun doesn't fire. It turns out that a marine safety instructor lowered the hammer earlier, and Ryan "forgot" to cock the weapon before firing. The reader (and Ryan himself) is left uncertain whether or not it was deliberate, but the point is that Ryan manages to leave the scene with a clean conscience. "I'm not a murderer."
  • NSA
  • Number of the Beast:
    • 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.
  • 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 Clear and Present Danger. Later in the series, the oddness of the friendship is explicitly commented upon.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Completely and often tragically 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.
  • Pants-Positive Safety: In Patriot Games, Jack Ryan absentmindedly shoves a loaded semi-auto pistol down his waistband, with the safety off and the hammer cocked[4]. Gunny Breckenridge takes the gun out, puts the safety on and gives it back.
  • Pay Evil Unto Evil: Without Remorse, Teeth of the Tiger, and Dead or Alive are largely about this.
  • Peace Through Superior Firepower: The American military arsenal is described in lavish, loving detail.
  • 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.
  • The Plot Reaper: How a certain Author Stand In gets to be President at the end of Debt of Honor.
  • Prequel: Without Remorse and Patriot Games. 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 Kremlin to get the Russians to try and turn him, and used as part of a smear campaign against him in The Sum of All Fears.
  • The President's Daughter: Katie Ryan is captured, albeit briefly, by terrorists in Executive Orders.
  • Psycho Lesbian: The Cardinal of the Kremlin features a American female rocket scientist who essentially hands her male co-worker over to the KGB in order to (clumsily) attempt to seduce the guy's fiancee.
  • Red Scare
  • 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
  • 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:
    • Elizabeth Elliot in The Sum of All Fears.
    • The Prime Minister of India in Executive Orders.
  • Rich Idiot With No Day Job: The police (and as a result drug dealers) in Without Remorse initially identify Kelly as a "rich beach bum" given that he leases his own island.
  • 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.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: Used as throwaway villains in the "Mountain Men" subplot of Executive Orders.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Clark lives off of this trope in Without Remorse.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Prince of Wales in Patriot Games. He gets to show off his military training during the penultimate shootout.
  • Scary Black Man: Invoked by Robby Jackson in Patriot Games in order to intimidate a terrorist, who had very unwisely dropped the N-Bomb towards Robby's wife.
  • Science Marches On: Several books set Twenty Minutes Into the Future make use of proposed weapons systems that never went into production, or never existed in the first place.
    • The fancy "see people through walls" devices used in Rainbow Six were based on a fraudulent device shown off in a rigged demo to the US Army that Clancy had heard about (before the fraudulent part was discovered).
    • Comanche helicopters with stealth technology built in are used in special operations against Japan in Debt of Honor before the project was canceled by the second Bush administration.
    • The 'Star Wars' missile defense system that is at the center of the plot in 'The Cardinal Of The Kremlin' turned out to be a complete failure.
    • Another missile defense note, this one from The Bear and the Dragon(2000) The climactic terminal-phase intercept of the Chinese ICBM heading for Washington D.C. was somewhat conceivable in the late 1990s when the subject was being kicked around (and the book was written). A decade later, any terminal-phase ICBM intercept has more or less been deemed impossible and banished from US National Missile Defense development.
    • Also from The Bear and the Dragon As of the mid-2000s, the Chinese nuclear arsenal had grown hugely in sophistication, numbers and mobility (specifically solid-fuel road-mobile ICBM's that can fire on virtually no notice) from what Clancy describes as a viable special operations target.
  • Scotireland: The tendency of people to do this is Lampshaded in Patriot Games.
  • Semper Fi: Jack Ryan is a former Marine.
  • 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).
    • Tom Clancy lived in Annapolis, Maryland -- site of the US Naval Academy. Between the staff and instructors living in town, and the fact that a nontrivial chunk of Annapolis' population are retired naval personnel and families, we can reasonably presume that at least one of his friends or neighbors was available for a professional consult.
    • In his Playboy interview, Clancy said that some detail about submarine operation that he included in Red October, that he had pieced together himself, turned out to be not only correct but classified. He got a visit from the FBI, trying to figure out how he had gotten that information. The conversation basically went:

Bureau: How did you know about that?
Clancy: Know about what?
Bureau: We can't tell you, it's classified.

    • It was not uncommon in the USN Sub community at the time to see highlighted copies of "Hunt For Red October" with different color shading marking what level of secrecy had been breached by Clancy's sources.
  • Shrine to Self: Several military characters are shown to have this attitude.
  • 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.
    • It even get derided in a few books as either very foolish from a military perspective (it kills one's night vision), or a sign of stress one is tryign to conceal and the smoking is a dead giveaway.
  • Smug Snake: Ernesto Escobedo's default attitude towards America and Americans in Clear And Present Danger. In fact, 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.
  • Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan: Featured in The Cardinal of the Kremlin.
  • Spy Fiction: The Stale Beer variety. Given a Lampshade Hanging on multiple occasions by John Clark. "Larson, if this were a movie, you'd be a blonde with big tits and a loose blouse." In The Movie of the Book, the above is averted.
  • Spy School: Several references are made throughout the series to "The Farm", a CIA training facility in Virginia. 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.
  • Steel Ear Drums: John Kelly, in Without Remorse, doesn't appear to bother with ear protection while range shooting.
  • Straw Civilian: Several. Especially noted when Navy pilot Robby Jackson states that jet engine noise is the "Sound of Freedom". To the people living near the military airport, the value of freedom from low blood pressure, sound sleep, and good hearing is left unmentioned, but that's Robby's response to the complaints.
  • Strawman Political: Clancy makes regular use of strawman liberals, pacifists, and environmentalists throughout his novels.
    • That said, the rare aversions (such as Arnold van Damm) are generally refreshingly honest and as even-handed as one might expect.
    • On the other hand, it's downright parodic in Threat Vector, where every character with a remotely liberal bent is portrayed as a self serving, hypocritical, scheming wretch who embodies every single undesirable aspect of the political left. This notable since even in earlier and even later books even the strawmen characters were handled with much more finesse.
  • 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. 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. How entertaining that is depends, of course, on your own views.
  • Tear Your Face Off: Clancy is rather fond of this. Multiple books feature somewhat graphic descriptions of a well-placed headshot plastering someone's face against a wall.
  • Techno Babble: 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, especially military technology.
  • 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.
  • Throwing Out the Script:
    • 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.
    • 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.)
  • Torture Always Works:
    • 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 Sum of all Fears, the terrorists lie about who their backer is, when they are subjected to torture, having prepared said lie in advance in the event of capture.
  • The Troubles: Patriot Games
  • 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.
  • Title Drop: Done in virtually all of his novels, with very few exceptions.
  • 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 Sume Of All Fears.
  • Treasure Chest Cavity: In Without Remorse, the drug dealers smuggle heroin inside the corpses of slain U.S. soldiers.
  • Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Invoked in both The Sum of all Fears and Debt of Honor, for different reasons.
  • 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.
  • Western Terrorists: The Warrior Society in The Sum of all Fears, and the Mountain Men in Executive Orders. Alex Dobbens's group also plays a role in helping the ULA attack Ryan's home in Patriot Games.
  • 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're 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.
  • Yellow Peril: Tom Clancy loves this:
    • Debt Of Honor: Sinister Japanese cabal with Chinese backing, schemes to cripple the world economy, and launch a new war of aggression.
    • Executive Orders: Chinese government, allies with India, to back radical Islam in terrorism and territorial aggression.
    • SSN: China goes to war with America over the Spratly Islands. Based on a submarine simulator Video Game.
    • The Bear and the Dragon: China invades Russia. Yeah...
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • Subverted in Sum Of All Fears because the nuclear scientist hadn't actually finished the bomb when he was killed. Because of that, the nuke's yield is significantly lessened, and provides the vital clue that keeps the US from launching its arsenal at Russia. Played straight when the terrorists murder Marvin Russell after he helps them plant the bomb -- they hadn't told him it was a nuke and figured he might be a wee tad upset about it.
    • 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.

The film adaptations provide examples of:[edit | hide]

  • Action Duo: Ryan and Clark in the film version of Clear and Present Danger.
  • Adaptation Dye Job: In the books Cathy Ryan is a blonde, but every film version of the character has been either a brunette or a redhead.
  • Badass Bookworm: Jack Ryan, even more than in the books.
  • Fake Russian: Most of the crew of the Red October, for a start.
  • "Get Out of Jail Free" Card: In the film version of Clear and Present Danger, Ritter refers to the document from Cutter authorizing the anti-Cartel operations as this. This is a distinct change from the novel, where said document was meant to protect the CIA as a whole from any repercussions of said operations, not just the official holding the document.
  • Make the Bear Angry Again: In the film version of The Sum of All Fears.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The antagonists of the film version of The Sum of All Fears.
  • Shout-Out: In Patriot Games, you see Harrison Ford crossing Hanover Street.
  1. miniguns aren't equipped with sights, as they're for area denial and not precision shooting
  2. but not the movie
  3. Radar Intercept Officer
  4. as in an inadvertent bump would be all that was needed to set it off, ending his line at Jack Jr