Tom Clancy die-hard readers know the character of Mr. Clark all to well. First introduced in the novel The Cardinal and the Kremlin - and playing a large role in every book thereafter - he quickly became the "dark side" to Jack Ryan. If Ryan was the ambassador, then Clark was engaged in "black ops" somewhere in the shadows.
[Spoiler alert] Without Remorse is the story that all of the "Clark" fans were waiting for. The mysterious past is now unveiled. The story here is two-fold and begins in the early 1970's where we meet a young Vietnam vet, John Kelly - eventually code-named Mr. Clark.
The majority of the book deals with the events in Kelly's - quite tragic - personal life. While mourning the death of his pregnant wife in a traffic accident (chapter one), Kelly encounters a hitchhiker named Pam - who turns out to be a prostitute fleeing her cruel "pimps". While the two fall in love, Kelly seeks to bring justice to the drug lords that Pam was involved with. However, a miscalculation on Kelly's part leads to Pam's horrible death. This is where the story gets started... Seeking justice, Kelly begins - methodically - to dispose of all those involved in this drug ring and the others involved in Pam's abusive life.
As it usually does, Vietnam finds a way back into Kelly's life - and during his vengeful pursuits - he is asked to return on a secret operation to rescue 20 American pilots from a North Vietnamese prison camp. Betrayed by someone in Washington, the mission ends in apparent failure... [End Spoiler Alert]
Without Remorse - unlike the majority of Clancy's novels - starts out at a very rapid pace. The action in this story is merely a means to an end. While it is a huge part of the novel, it is not the focal point. This story is all about emotion. And revenge. Despite this, the actions of Kelly seem justified because all that he has been through and who he is fighting against: The scum on the streets.
The character development is amazing - for Clancy. Obviously he does a fine job with Kelly/Clark - given the type of story this is. While Jack Ryan does have a very brief appearance - ironically, it is his father that has a major part in the story as a Baltimore detective who is always one step behind Kelly as he is wrecking havoc on this drug ring. We definitely see that Jack takes after his father.
Without Remorse has almost no technological references in it - most are found in the sub-plot involving Vietnam. The most descriptive this book gets is how Clancy describes the way Kelly kills the Drug Pushers. In fact, it is worth mentioning here that Without Remorse is not for the light-hearted as the content is graphic and the mature themes are abundant. Although they are in talk of turning this into a movie - I am not sure I look forward to seeing this on the big screen.
At first, I hesitated reading this book because I was a Jack Ryan fan. However, I began to run out of Ryan stories so I picked this up. The result? I realized that Jack Ryan leaves a lot to be desired as a character in comparison to the very mysterious and private Mr. Clark.
Overall, this book is amazing, no, enthralling - and much different from all the other Jack Ryan novels.