“Under Fire,” a Tom Clancy novel by Grant Blackwood, has the return of Jack Ryan Jr. as the protagonist. Since Tom Clancy’s death, his legacy is carried on with authors Mark Greaney and Grant Blackwood. Both continue the intense, thrilling and realistic plots that Tom Clancy was known for. Whereas Clancy included a lot of technology in his stories, in this book Blackwood emphasizes the intelligence world.
“I was proud to work with Tom on ‘Dead Or Alive,’” Blackwood noted to blackfive.net. “This very successful book kept the franchise moving forward. I am keenly aware of the tradition I have been tasked with. Besides being a fan and reader, while writing ‘Dead Or Alive’ I got steeped in the Clancy universe as a writer. Jack Ryan Jr.’s drives and motivations was something I understood from working with Clancy earlier. Greaney, our editor, and I talked a lot about what happened in the book written by Mark, and what I have Jack doing in this book. We did not only dovetail but wanted to make sure there were no contradictions, that it was a seamless change. In the early stages of planning this book I told Mark, ‘Here is what I have in mind,’ to make sure it did not mess him up with his next Clancy book. He read Under Fire as I was going along so he has a good segue going into the next book. I know the plan is for two books a year going forward and we have not come to a decision if I will write another one.”
The book centers on Jack Ryan Jr., who is coming into his own as an operative. While on an intelligence mission in Tehran, Jack meets with his old high school friend, Seth Gregory. Later Seth disappears and Jack is told he is a possible traitor. It becomes imperative that he must choose between his loyalties to his friend, Seth, or to his county. Pursuing the truth leads Jack across Iran, through war-torn Caucasus, and deep into territory controlled by the aggressive Russian Federation. He is helped by an enigmatic Iranian woman, Ysabel, who becomes a loyal partner. They race against the clock to determine who is friend and who is foe.
The book gives a shout out to the unsung heroes, U.S. intelligence agents.
“I like to pay homage to those on the cutting edge of this world,” Blackwood said. “There is this old saying in the intelligence business: things will go wrong. It is how someone handles themselves when they go off track that is a good judge of character. Jack Jr. realized he could not dwell on the guilt. He is really good at adjusting his course and moving forward, the hallmark of an intelligence operative. The world of espionage is the ‘wilderness of mirrors,’ in that nothing is as it seems to be. The motives, intentions, and methods are a minefield Jack must navigate. This is often the case with real-world, high-stakes field operatives.”
The plotline has Jack Ryan Jr. delving deep into the geo-political world, bringing back memories of the Cold War. Russia’s turbulent relationship with that region, the home of many separatist groups is brought to the forefront. This scenario has a Putin-like president of Russia forcefully trying to exert his influence over the nation of Dagestan, while Jack and others are attempting to assist in a successful coup.
A very compelling supporting cast of characters is introduced. Ysabel Kashani has an American mother and an Iranian father. She will become Jack’s new love interest and is described as beautiful, brave, smart, independent, witty and resourceful. Jack wonders what motivates her to become an agent. Which piece of “MICE” is the reason for her cooperation: “money, ideology, compromise, or coercion?” He realizes she is unlike any woman he has met before and that her reasons are based on being a principled and loyal person. Throughout the book she steps up to the plate to help and rescue Jack, basically having his back.
The other character, Seth Gregory, is seen as cold-blooded, driven, and at times reckless — a man on a mission. He is a very complicated character whose motivations are based upon a deep familial secret. Emotional issues that are connected drive him to what he is attempting to accomplish. This leaves Jack to wonder if Seth is the same person he knew in high school or has he changed over time.
The author also wanted to give a heads up about the re-release electronically of his original series. It is a collection of three books whose main character is Briggs Tanner, an operative much like Jack Ryan Jr. These books have a lot of political intrigue and action.
“Under Fire” has a very intriguing storyline. As with any Tom Clancy novel, it brings into focus current events. Not only is it riveting and gripping but also has a very realistic plot.