Tom Clancy Point of Contact, Mike Maden, author; Scott Brick, narrator
I stayed with this book until the end due to the exceptional talent of the narrator. He was the reason that I gave it two stars rather than one. Scott Brick is the saving grace of this novel because he does a fantastic job as a reader, using just the right amount of expression and tone for each character. The book itself leaves a lot to be desired. Characters pop up serendipitously and seem poorly developed. Then they often disappeared without any credible explanation, while others reappeared so much later on, it was hard to relate them back to the proper moment in time.
Every possible theme was included by the author. There were spies, corrupt government officials, criminals and thugs, violence, alcohol abuse, intimation of inappropriate sexual comments and behavior, loss and grief, and there were outlandish suspicions of each other coupled with ridiculous accusations and incredible assumptions.
When the book opens, Jack Ryan is on assignment to rescue hostages on a ship in the North Sea. From there, he returns home, disappointed because he believes that he screwed up in the liberation effort. He thinks he needs to have more training from The Campus. Then, when he is suddenly sent to Singapore to do some forensic accounting and fraud investigation for a Senator, Wes Rhodes, on a potential investment there, he believes this white-side op assignment is in retribution for his failure to react properly on the ship. However, when the mission turns into a black-side op adventure, it is wrapped up in a convoluted story about an effort to destroy the stock markets of the world and bring about economic disaster.
Ryan travels to Singapore with Paul Brown, initially described as a nerdy kind of guy, known for his ability to detect fraud. Secretly, he has been tasked by Senator Rhodes to do clandestine work involving planting some software on the mainframe of the company being investigated. When that software is launched, unknown to Paul and the Senator, the worldwide markets will collapse like dominos.
It took almost the entire book to figure out the story line, and then, even at the end, there were so many holes in the narrative I was left with a barely plausible conclusion. Just when it seemed like something might be making some sense, leading in a logical direction, the author brought up some other thread that made the plot veer off on another path requiring the total suspension of disbelief.
As an example, when chasing down a lead about an unknown factory location, Jack was intentionally involved in a serious vehicle accident in which he suffered injuries leaving him unconscious. Yet, when he awoke, he was miraculously not injured seriously enough to prevent him from continuing on with his secret mission. Oddly, although the accident was an attempt to prevent him from continuing his investigation, he was not captured or killed and was allowed to go on with his work. Even when he was apparently caught red-handed doing something highly illegal in a country that has some barbaric methods of punishment for infractions, the authorities were never informed.
Even more inconceivably, Paul Brown suspected the President’s son of doing something improper and then held him at gunpoint, eventually attacking him and knocking him out. Jack Ryan is the President’s son, and yet Brown’s behavior is treated as if this was to be expected and was not highly unusual. Then Gavin, a member of The Campus, like Jack, believes Paul’s ridiculous story about Jack’s love affair with Lian Fairchild whose father owns the company being investigated. Why did Paul and Jack keep secrets from each other even though they were all engaged in highly technical work with a situation that was becoming very suspect? They placed each other in danger because they displayed a remarkable lack of common sense.
When Paul Brown gets caught using the company computer in an unauthorized way, he somehow gets away with it, only to be captured a bit later on. Then, while all of the interested parties are attempting to stop the world markets from going into an intentional tailspin causing economic disaster, an impossible cyclone opportunely bears down on Singapore. With severe injuries, the characters bounce back up each time, and like superheroes, continue onward. All the themes began to seem contrived.
The book is disjointed and tedious at times with extraneous, unnecessary details that are very confusing and are often dropped in seemingly to simply add volume to the book. Themes remained undeveloped without ever being brought to a satisfying climax. Different threads of the story were opened and left hanging or weren’t developed until so much later in the narrative, there was no way to reconnect them. Who were the Koreans? Who were the Bulgarians? What part did the Singaporeans play in this debacle? How did they all connect? Why was there a secret warehouse? Who was managing it? What happened to Yong Fairchild? What was his purpose? The premise that Paul or Jack could clandestinely get into the computers of a company that was very technologically advanced was astounding. The fact that both of them could escape detection, at various times, defied reality.
There was simply no way to knit this story together in a cohesive, convincing way.
There was little action until very near the end and then it was action that was overdone, unrealistic and inconclusive.