Chapter by Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
I may have chosen the wrong book to read this close to Christmas. One day out and we’re back to talking about a bombing. A fictional one thankfully, but it’s still an odd topic on December 26th. Happy Boxing Day I guess.
Frankly, our heroes are not getting the best showing. Op-Center’s director is going to be distracted by his son and one of its investigators has to deal with his wife’s death right in front of him. They are not going to be at their most effective and this is the first time we’ve seen them, but at least the latter is a problem that I can get behind for the sake of the story and the former is still a bad thing he has to deal with. Meanwhile, one of his subordinates thinks he’s sexually repressed, another wants to relive him of that despite him being a happily married man, and his second-in-command just decided to go off to play war hero, leaving a younger and more experienced solider in the tight unit behind just as someone seems to want to restart the Korean War (and not to bring M*A*S*H* back) and the still new Op-Center is 50/50 in results of previous missions, meaning the future of the whole operation is in serious jeopardy. I wouldn’t want to be in Hood’s place for anything.
Why only two chapters this week? Well, look at the page count:
- Chapter 20: Tuesday, 6:25 AM, Op-Center: eleven pages
- Chapter 21: Tuesday, 9PM, Seoul: three pages
Meanwhile, chapters 22 and 23 are kind of the reverse; a short chapter followed by a normal-length chapter. That means the best way to review these next four chapters is in two articles. This book is really weird with how it lays out chapters. So let’s see what happens in this section.
Chapter 20 seems to be mostly about setting up the world situation currently in the Clancyverse (or Op-Center universe if this isn’t in the same continuity as Clancy’s other series). Hood has a video conference with the various government advisors, some of which we met in the President’s war room earlier. He does this from “The Tank”, a heavily secured situation room that was touched upon in the previous chapter. His office is next to it because some of the younger members are worried about being so close to the electronic anti-listening safeguards and the general computer/communication gear. It describes the various electronic and low-tech security measures that would seem like overkill in any other organization not involved with military intelligence and geopolitical strategies. I’m not going to bog you down with the details. If you’ve read the chapter along with me you already know what they are. If not you may not care at this point. I’ll give you the important details:
- North Korea probably doesn’t want a war because it doesn’t suit their financial interests or the current Dear Leader’s political interests. He’s given the civilians just enough freedom to maintain control and keeping friendly ties with the South is in his best interests. This seems odd given who’s running NK right now but that’s not the blog to go into that. Plus it’s not the world of the book at the time. I’m not sure if it’s set in the then-present time of 1995 or the nearish-future like some of his video games, but it’s not 2018 (soon to be 2019) as known today so it could just be a situation the author came up with for the purposes of the story.
- There’s talk about who would side with whom. Curious is the thought that Japan would side with the North because various Japanese underworld organizations are currently investing in the North with their ill-gotten gains and the Yakuza has influence in their government that the Mafia of the US only wishes they had.
- This is curious only because we know Eyepatch and his friends were headed to Japan while the assassins used Yakuza-style “calling cards”, but it’s possible they were faking that, plus we’ve already seen that one group in a pachinko parlor are tied into events of this story.
- Finally, there is some thought that an outside party is trying to start a new Korean War, which may be close to the truth given what we’ve seen thus far. Whether it’s for war profiteering or trying to distract from the war they actually want to have are suggested reasons and are being looked into. Nice bit of mystery there.
Then Paul gets the bad news that his second is off having his own adventure, which I’m guessing we’ll get more of next time. Right now we move on to Chapter 21 and see how Gregory Donald is doing. The answer is not very well. He’s still thinking about how he will go on without his wife, the nature of their relationship (although they did love each other, so nothing like that), the reasoning for the bombing and snuffing out so many innocent lives, and how he’s like to help take them down. He still hasn’t brought himself to phone her parents. It’s a tough time for him. The chapter’s about getting into Donald’s head, and you have to wonder what his ultimate role in this story is going to be.
Overall a good pair of chapters. 21 is short but does its job of a character moment and 20 sets up the situation and showcases how the Center operates, mistakes as well as the effort put into their research and deduction. Next time we’ll check in with the idiot who may make problems worse for Op-Center and a bigger chapter that according to a quick skim will focus on the staff psychologist and the Press Secretary who want to cozy up with her boss. So all three of the big headaches not involved with the bombing. I’m not going to lie…I’m not looking forward to next time.