Top positive review
If you can put up with Tom's preachiness, it's awesome spy-adventure fun
Reviewed in the United States on September 14, 2015
Locked On by Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney is the sequel to the novel Dead or Alive (reviewed here). It is the third novel in the Campus series, which deals with the wildly implausible off-the-books assassination squad assembled by Jack Ryan when he's President that employs his son. The Campus doesn't answer to its liberal President, Ed Kealty (boo!), but their own sense of justice (yay!), while doing all manner of illegal things which would technically qualify them as terrorists under international law. But which doesn't matter because this is not a series with a trace of either awareness or moral ambiguity.
And it's awesome for it.
No, seriously, I highly recommend the Campus books for fans of Tom Clancy and newcomers to his writing alike despite how incredibly bad it is in many places. No, seriously, there's some genuinely camp stuff in this book. We have ultra-liberal lawyers wanting to get the stand-in for Osama Bin Ladin transferred to a minimum security prison and a member of an illegal death squad not pursued by public charges because the President might lose Mexican votes. Locked On takes place in a ridiculously over-the-top universe which is closer and closer to a Republican James Bond's every day but which insists its more or less realistic.
Speaking as the flaming liberal anarchist that I am, Locked On was enjoyable from start to finish even if it was propagandist at times. I've heard far worse from my father, though, and the book is framed so much in black and white terms it's hard to take any of the areas I disagree with seriously. Readers who are more easily offended by such things should bear this in mind that Tom Clancy, or his co-author, is very prone to wearing his politics on his sleeve.
The premise of the novel is the Emir is still imprisoned by the United States government but is working through sympathetic liberal lawyers in order to pass information onto his allies about the Campus. This information leads directly to a warrant being issued for multiple world-saver John Clark as well as threatens to reveal his clandestine activities. Meanwhile, a terrorist leader plans to begin a military coupl in Afghanistan by "disappearing" one of the country's nukes to be used against a terrorist organization's target-of-choice. Jack Ryan Senior, through all of this, is trying to get elected President as he sees Ed Kealty as a fool unable to navigate these complicated political waters.
And, being a Jack Ryan book, he's right.
This is a fun-fun example of spy fiction if you have a high tolerance for Clancy's right-wing preaching. There's several great action sequences, lots of spy melodrama, and even an interesting romance subplot. I really like the new character of Melanie Kraft, a CIA analyst who is doing her best to deal with the politically charged atmosphere of the current administration, and hope to see her more in future books. There's plenty of characters, both old and new, getting to do outrageous bits of fun. It's a book which I can't take seriously as political fiction or a hard spy fiction but I enjoyed it nevertheless.
Tom Clancy does his usual techno-thriller accuracy but, as with Dead or Alive, the Campus defies all manner of assumptions about the realities of both law as well as technology. Someone in the FBI, CIA, or NSA would pick up on their existence, especially since they're data-mining all three for their crusade against terrorists. It's an escapist fantasy, though, so I'm more willing to let it slide this time. Likewise, I enjoy the fact John Clark is still running around various countries doing wetwork despite the fact he's sixty-five years old. The "good" characters are all likable and fun while the "bad" guys are all despicable and hateable--which is really what you want from this sort of book.
In conclusion, Locked On is far from Clancy's best work but it's still entertaining as hell. You won't find any great insights into how spywork is done in the real world, you should read the earlier Tom Clancy novels for that sort of insight (or do your own research), but if you're looking for an entertaining literary action movie then this is the place to look. I look forward to picking up more entries in the series to see where Jack Ryan Junior's story goes and I'm saddened by the fact Tom Clancy didn't get to finish it before his death.