In the wake of Tom Clancy's recent passing, I have been compelled to go back through his catalog. Besides Stephen King and Tolkien, he was one of the predominant voices of my childhood reading, so much so that it led me to write a few god-awful techno-thrillers of my own.
Patriot Games is a great, entertaining read; a trend in publishing that would create a whole new language of genre and a character that would spawn as of portrayal on film by four different actors. The complexity of some of his descriptions of technical aspects, while not really germane to the actual story, provide enough density that the book still feels fresh even after a number of readings.
The characters of Patriot Games are not the most interesting or thought provoking - the good characters are very good and the bad characters are very bad. On face, it isn't the most compelling dynamic to find in a book but in a realm where many other writers have gone before, Clancy manages to pull it off nicely and there are few points in the story where I feel like I am rehashing things as a reader that I have seen far too many times before.
While not published first, Patriot Games is the launching pad for the Jack Ryan character and would lead to a healthy collection of further books. The quality of the series as a whole does not necessarily hold up as Clancy grew older and the plots of the books grew slightly outrageous (ie - President Jack Ryan) but this book stands as a solid introduction and plants the seeds for more to come.
I highly recommend this - a well written book that has a good balance between technical detail and plot that compels you to read on. The premise is solid and the pacing is done as close to perfection as can probably be achieved. For me, it was a good way of going back to a time in my life when books were just meant to be fun and entertaining.