We've read most of Clancy's work over the years, and enjoyed many of his books. We wonder, however, whether major authors sometimes get to the point where they refuse to let their publishers properly edit their work. Or whether in today's publishing world editors have just become irrelevant, or too expensive to bother with.
Whatever the case may be, this is a book that could've used some major editing. The fundamental story is entertaining enough: a private clandestine intelligence agency set up by former uber-President Jack Ryan is tracking a thinly veiled Osama Bin Laden character ("the Emir") as he embarks on a set of interrelated terror attacks. When the book sticks to this storyline, it's reasonably fun.
The problem is that Clancy can't resist inserting pretty much every character he's ever created from any of his books into the story, often in some far-off tangent, side-story or backstory. There is a LOT of this in the book, and it really bogs it down.
When we started reading, the opening and the first chapter were vintage Clancy, sucking you in and getting you ready for a fast-paced thriller. Then the pace slows to a crawl as Clancy gets into all the irrelevant material. This goes on for page after page after page for pretty much the entire first half of the book. When you're in the middle of a book on Kindle and you find yourself opting to play solitaire instead of reading, you know there's a problem.
There's also an entire side-story of the former President Ryan gearing up to run again--the country having fallen into the hands of a spineless liberal President--that goes nowhere (or maybe to the next book?). Readers of Clancy books always have to put up with his right-wing leanings, and we could stomach that again here but for the seemingly endless pages of boring and confusing irrelevancies.
Clancy doesn't need to bring along all the baggage of his old books, and a good editor would tell him not to. Unfortunately, the answer to the title's question--dead or alive?--is dead on arrival. Take a pass on this clunker.