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The Sum of All Fears
By Tom Clancy

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The Sum of All Fears

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The Sum of All Fears
Large Print Edition
By Tom Clancy
Thorndike Press - Large Print, (1991)
ISBN: 1-56054-258-6
Genre: Techno-Thriller, Suspense

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - May 22, 2003

The Sum of All Fears is a work of fiction that is based upon a fictional event - namely the loss of a nuclear weapon...

During the Golan Heights Campaign of the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel and Syria, the Israelis lost a primitive nuclear warhead. The warhead had been mistakenly loaded on a fighter jet. When the jet crashed, the unarmed weapon bounced across the barren landscape of the Golan Heights, settling at last in the vegetable garden of a Druse farmer. With due diligence, the farmer covered the bomb with dirt and went on with his life. Thus begins The Sum of All Fears, a Tom Clancy novel that features the invincible Jack Ryan.

The loss of the nuclear bomb is only the tip of this involved story. After describing how the bomb was lost, Clancy quickly propels the story ahead to the 1990's when the bomb works its way back up to the surface of the farmer's field and into the hands of terrorists. Several diverse people join forces to make the bomb functional; including Ismael Qati, an Islamic terrorist who is dying of cancer, Gunther Bock, a member of the notorious Baader - Meinhof Gang (a German terrorist group), and Marvin Russell, the head of the Warrior Society. The Warrior Society is a mythic American Indian Movement / domestic terrorist group that is involved, among other things, in drug trafficking.

These three men have it within their power to bring to the world to its knees. Aligned against this massive force of evil is Ryan, who is currently serving as the Deputy Director of the CIA. Not only does Ryan have to deal with a growing terrorist threat, but he also has to deal with Elizabeth Elliot, the National Security Advisor. Elliot hates Ryan with a passion and is working overtime to destroy him. The fact that she is having an affair with The President works to her advantage as she tries to discredit Ryan by creating a scandal that could not only destroy his political career, but his marriage as well.

Throughout this novel, Clancy has adroitly interwoven several concurrent stories that serve as the backdrop for the cataclysm that is bound to occur if the nuclear bomb is detonated. Worst of all, political rivalries and international suspicions have the potential of turning an appalling event into something unspeakable. From beginning to end, Clancy keeps you on the edge of your seat in a story that is even more pertinent today, in light of current terrorist events, than it was in 1991 when it was first published.

A masterful story that is rich in detail and realistic characters, The Sum of All Fears has only one real flaw. Clancy spends the first two-thirds of the book providing interesting and detailed background information about the characters and how a thermo-nuclear bomb is created. He keeps the story flowing, and it is hard to put down, but I kept wanting him to hurry up and 'get to the action.' When the action starts, it doesn't stop, I just feel that the story would have been more heart pounding if more 'action' had occurred earlier in the story. Despite this characteristic Clancy 'flaw', this is an enthralling story and a must read for all fans of Jack Ryan and the thriller genre.

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