Ever since reading Rainbow 6, I was captivated by Clancy’s literary style. I was recommended to read “Without Remorse” which chronicles the beginnings of John Kelley, or John Clark, the CIA mastermind behind Rainbow 6. It was a fitting novel to follow up Rainbow because it tells the backstory of the main protagonist.
Without Remorse, Tom Clancy
As we have discussed, some fiction novels do not always have a coherent message behind them: some are purely for entertainment purposes. This novel however, is chock full of subtle political and social messages. Essentially, the novel begins with John Kelley picking up a strange women who joins Kelley on his boat and home. We later find out that she is a prostitute that has escaped her captors who provide her with involuntary drugs. He falls in love with her but she dies when they go to stake out the old stomping grounds. This enrages Kelley and he goes on a rampage to end the lives of her captors.
At the same time, Vietnam is still raging on in the Pacific. Kelley was a Master Chief Petty Officer with the Seals but has fulfilled his obligations to his country and is living the civilian life. His shadowed past included an operation that put his life in grave danger in the jungles of Vietnam. He trekked through miles of a river to a base deep in enemy territory to rescue a fellow Seal. Sometime in the book after he retired, the CIA approaches Kelley to help guide another team into the same base where the Soviets and North Koreans are holding POW’s with vital national security information.
Right off the bat, there is a signification moral issue that arises in this book: “Is it a moral obligation to right something you know is wrong?” In the case of Kelley’s lover, he knows that more women are being held captive by these evil men. When he starts murdering them systematically and rescuing the imprisoned women (dropping them off at nurses house), a moral conflict is raised by those who are informed of the situation: is Kelley justified in exacting vengeance outside of the law when he knows there is evil being committed? Perfectly mirrored by the conflict in Vietnam, as a superior fighting force and a nation with the power to intervene, were we (are we) obligated to engage in foreign war by military intervention when we know there are atrocities happening in the country?
This interplay between the two stories is quite captivating. The book does a great job between dishing out a fantastic story while interweaving a complex socio-political message underneath. I am sure this will not be the last Clancy book I read!