Tag Archives: russia

we really know nothing…

There is a curse.
They say:
May you live in interesting times.

Terry Pratchett, Interesting Times

It’s hard not to feel that history is repeating itself and that it’s decided that the worst of the 20th Century is what is worth repeating. Up first we had a global pandemic that was eerily similar to The Spanish Flu of 1918 and now we have a military invasion of an Eastern European country by a neighbouring dictator that sounds horribly similar to the start of WW2.

Newsfeeds and news channels are full of blame and the rhetoric of politicians far removed from the terror and death that’s facing the people of Ukraine. World leaders doing what they want and playing power games while ordinary people suffer and die.

Facebook is full of profile photos displaying Ukrainian flags, sunflowers and #istandwithukraine. I get it, people are concerned and want to show their displeasure and support but what good does it really do? It doesn’t really help anyone in Ukraine and it only makes us feel a little better.

This time 100 years ago Irish men and women were fighting and dying in an attempt to have freedom and independence from an unwanted occupier and today that’s happening in Ukraine. From our modern, comfortable lives what can we know of anything that these people are going through?

© bbc

Today turned out to be yet another stormy and overcast day in February. I had a notion to go into the hills but couldn’t face the thought of being blown off a summit so instead I went for a long walk on local roads and trails and had lunch in the forest. It was the perfect antidote for all the potential stress of the rest of life.

the humble ham sandwich and cup of tea

the sun made a short appearance while sitting enjoying the peace of the forest

my constant companion

moody skies

man down!

Header image by Pixabay from Pexels

the cardinal of the kremlin

The Cardinal of the Kremlin (Jack Ryan #4) by Tom Clancy.

From Goodreads:

In a rolling sea off the coast of South America, a target disappears in a puff of green light. In the Soviet hills of Dushanbe near the Afghanistan border, an otherworldly array of pillars and domes rises into the night. To the two greatest nations on earth, no contest is more urgent than the race to build the first Star Wars missile defense system, and no one knows that more than the two men charged with assessing the Soviets’ capabilities: Colonel Mikhail Filitov of the Soviet Union, an old-line warrior distrusted by the army’s new inner circle of technocrats, and CIA analyst Jack Ryan, hero of the Red October affair.

Each must use all his craft to arrive at the truth, but Filitov gets there first — and that’s when all hell breaks loose. Because Filitov, code-named Cardinal, is America’s highest agent in the Kremlin, and he is about to be betrayed to the KGB. His rescue could spell the difference between peace and war, and it is up to Jack Ryan to accomplish it — if he can — as, in a breathtaking sequence of hunter and hunted, Filitov’s life, and Ryan’s and that of the world itself literally hang in the balance.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’ve been disappointed by many of the previous books in the series but this was very good. There is much more of a storyline and much less mind numbing technical and military detail. Altogether there are three strands to the story with a CIA, Russian and Afghan element. I would have liked to have seen more development of the Afghan storyline but it’s there for a plot line purpose and just serves that.

Refreshingly in this story Clancy spends much less time degrading Soviet society and highlighting its faults. It still comes across as a corrupt and faulty society both socially and politically but more as part of the story and not rammed in the reader’s face. Additionally, the book is chock full of strong characters and a good number of these are on the Soviet side this time. The most notable is the old war hero Misha but the young soldier Bondarenko and the KGB investigator Vatutin are also excellent characters. In many ways the Soviets are the stars of this book while Ryan himself is in more of a supporting role.

I also particularly enjoyed the espionage of the first half of the book. There is a great sense of pace and tension as well as a good insight into the operations of both the CIA and KGB spy networks, how the agents operated and how they passed along information while staying undetected. Considering the disappointment of Red Rabbit this was a much better and more enjoyable book.

Header image by Kaboompics .com from Pexels

red rabbit

Red Rabbit (Jack Ryan #2) by Tom Clancy

From Goodreads:

Long before he was President or head of the CIA, before he fought terrorist attacks on the Super Bowl or the White House, even before a submarine named Red October made its perilous way across the Atlantic, Jack Ryan was an historian, teacher, and recent ex-Marine temporarily living in England while researching a book. A series of deadly encounters with an IRA splinter group had brought him to the attention of the CIA’s Deputy Director, Vice Admiral James Greer—as well as his counterpart with the British SIS, Sir Basil Charleston—and when Greer asked him if he wanted to come aboard as a freelance analyst, Jack was quick to accept. The opportunity was irresistible, and he was sure he could fit it in with the rest of his work.

And then Jack forgot all about the rest of his work, because one of his first assignments was to help debrief a high-level Soviet defector, and the defector told an amazing tale: Top Soviet officials, including Yuri Andropov, were planning to assassinate the Pope, John Paul II.

Could it be true? As the days and weeks go by, Ryan must battle, first to try to confirm the plot, and then to prevent it, but this is a brave new world, and nothing he has done up to now has prepared him for the lethal game of cat-and-mouse that is the Soviet Union versus the United States. In the end, it will be not just the Pope’s life but the stability of the Western world that is at stake. . . and it may already be too late for a novice CIA analyst to do anything about it.

My Rating: ⭐⭐

I really struggled with this. The writing is slow and ponderous. The storyline has so much potential for excitement and intrigue with the CIA v KGB to bring across a high level defector and based around an assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. However, Clancy manages to make it dull and boring.

There is far too much boring detail, far too much to and fro on inconsequential details and far too many characters with minor roles that make it difficult to follow. The main characters are unlikeable. There is a consistent arrogance from everyone towards the culture and traditions of everyone else that gets wearisome very quickly. Ryan and his wife have a particularly condescending attitude towards British life and portray what appears to be a serious personal issue of Clancy’s towards the NHS that is jarring and doesn’t contribute to the story.

The only likeable character in the whole story is Oleg, the Russian defector with a developing conscience around the assassination of the Pope and his desire for a better life for his family.

I struggle to see why this book became a #1 bestseller. I wonder what the competition at the time was?

Header image by Ricardo Esquivel from Pexels

jack ryan: shadow recruit

From IMDb:

Jack Ryan, as a young covert C.I.A. analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Having read the reviews my expectations we’re low enough going into this but it’s actually a pretty good movie. Typical action movie fare but well done. Decent story that storms along at a good speed and four good actors that work well together and are well cast for the parts they play even if the Russian accents are more Hollywood than Moscow. Definitely worth watching.

john wick

From IMDb:

With the untimely death of his beloved wife still bitter in his mouth, John Wick, the expert former assassin, receives one final gift from her–a precious keepsake to help John find a new meaning in life now that she is gone. But when the arrogant Russian mob prince, Iosef Tarasov, and his men pay Wick a rather unwelcome visit to rob him of his prized 1969 Mustang and his wife’s present, the legendary hitman will be forced to unearth his meticulously concealed identity. Blind with revenge, John will immediately unleash a carefully orchestrated maelstrom of destruction against the sophisticated kingpin, Viggo Tarasov, and his family, who are fully aware of his lethal capacity. Now, only blood can quench the boogeyman’s thirst for retribution.

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Simple and uncomplicated, but therefore a bit predictable, storyline.

Lots of big names and familiar faces. Marred at times by wooden and unconvincing performances, particularly the two main Russian characters.

Very violent but well choreographed action scenes and an excellent sound track.

Keanu Reeves did well in the lead role but couldn’t help but feel that it would have suited a more familiar action star.

The two sequels have good reviews so looking forward to seeing how the story develops.

the hunt for red october

The Hunt for Red October (Jack Ryan #1) by Tom Clancy

From Goodreads:

Here is the runaway bestseller that launched Tom Clancy’s phenomenal career. A military thriller so gripping in its action and so convincing in its accuracy that the author was rumored to have been debriefed by the White House. Its theme: the greatest espionage coup in history. Its story: the chase for a top secret Russian missile sub. Lauded by the Washington Post as “breathlessly exciting.” The Hunt for Red October remains a masterpiece of military fiction by one of the world’s most popular authors, a man whose shockingly realistic scenarios continue to hold us in thrall.

Somewhere under the Atlantic, a Soviet sub commander has just made a fateful decision. The Red October is heading west. The Americans want her. The Russians want her back. And the most incredible chase in history is on…

My Rating: ⭐⭐

I’m sure I’ve read a few of Tom Clancy’s books before but a long time ago. I decided to come back to them off the back of watching the TV show from Amazon. I couldn’t remember any of the story lines so not sure what it’s based on. I’ve also seen the film version of this book a couple of times so had a pretty good idea of the main characters and the storyline.

Overall I was disappointed. There is a huge amount of military jargon used in the story. Some of it is explained but there is just so much of it and so many acrynoms that I couldn’t keep track. Added to that there are an awful lot of characters, most of them minor, which makes it difficult to follow. The story skips about quite a lot which adds to this. Another reviewer described it like “bring your kid to work day” and being dragged around her Dad’s workplace meeting loads of people she didn’t know and in jobs she didn’t understand. I totally understand where she’s coming from!

What saved the book for me (apart from having loads of isolation induced time to spend reading) was the last 30%. Once the US make contact with the sub commander the story really changes. The boring, technical sub chase and evade story is finished and it becomes much more of a standard thriller type story with a military influence. This last bit of the book was enough to make me want to read more of the author and hopefully find out what makes him so popular.