Executive Orders by Tom Clancy HaperCollins $195 Tom Clancy doesn't do books by half. His plots span the globe, his characters are larger than life, and his latest work, Executive Orders, is a blockbuster in size as well as storyline. Weighing in at just under 900 densely-printed pages, this hardback is not a light read. Clancy, whose previous works include The Hunt For Red October and Clear And Present Danger, sets a lively pace from page one, although the opening scores no marks for subtlety. A Japanese airliner has just plunged into the Capitol Building in Washington, killing most of the American Government, including the president. To the rescue, once again, comes Jack Ryan, former secret service agent and one-time national security adviser. Ryan has grudgingly agreed to stand in as vice-president until another candidate can be found. But when the plane crash kills the leader of the free world, Ryan finds himself unpacking his toothbrush at the White House. He then has to fend off a collection of nasty schemes to strike down the United States while the administration is almost out for the count. Twists in the plot include the assassination of Saddam Hussein and a plan to threaten the world with the deadly Ebola virus. The characters and motivation of the various mad mullahs and scheming politicians arrayed against the US are well drawn but you always know these villains will never triumph against the presidential equivalent of a white knight. Ryan is gritty and tough, loves his wife, kisses small babies on occasion and is suitably steely when faced with an impending apocalypse. Even if the world appears a frightening place, with good guys such as Ryan, the country is safe. As expected, Executive Orders is packed with detailed research. There is seemingly no conflict, political upheaval or terrorist organisation that Clancy does not touch on here, however fleetingly. As a global conspiracy to cripple Uncle Sam gathers momentum, the reader is taken on an exhaustive tour of smoke-filled rooms and clandestine meetings from northwest China to the Sudan. Clancy's penchant for military hardware is also on display with the workings and capabilities of various helicopters, missiles and other weapons of mass destruction all included. Clancy knows how to tell a good yarn and he manages to turn Executive Orders into an entertaining read which will no doubt keep his millions of fans happy. But his attention to detail makes the tale over-long. Apart from the excessive length, the author's heavy-handed American patriotism causes some discomfort. Clancy is obviously proud of his country and its achievements. But the constant flag-waving and God bless America eulogies wear thin over the course of the book.