Debt of Honour by Tom Clancy HarperCollins $190 TOM Clancy's new work is not so much a novel, as a library. His canvas is so broad, it makes other thrillers look like they've been composed on postcards. His story has more interwoven plot-lines than a bath of spaghetti and he provides a veritable stadium full of characters. For evidence of this, take a quick glance at what's on offer in his latest 766-page (big pages, small print) blockbuster. There's a trade war between Japan and the United States. There are women trying to bring down a philandering sex-mad politician. There's a meltdown on Wall Street. There's an invasion. There are sleazy reporters, sneaky spies, mad bombers, unethical politicians and dozens of other people. The reader is one moment high in the sky in Air Force One, the jet of the US President; on the next page, he or she is in a submarine somewhere in the depths of the Indian Ocean. As usual, Clancy - and his research team - have done their homework and the book spills over with more real-life details than you could possibly want. Clancy recreates life on submarines particularly well. Remember the wonderful chase that dominated The Hunt for Red October ? The jargon-laden conversations add an aural vividness to this work as well: ''Mark your head!'' ''Coming right through one-nine-zero, my rudder is twenty-eight.'' ''Rudder amidships, steady up on two-zero-zero.'' ''Rudder amidships, aye, steady up on two-zero-zero.'' ''All ahead one third.'' I haven't the faintest idea what any of this means, but it gives Debt of Honour so much authentic-sounding colour that you will find yourself holding your breath as the submarine dives. The story starts with our hero Jack Ryan in retirement from his job at the Central Intelligence Agency, trying to live a quiet life and spend his days on the golf course. Suddenly he gets a message: he is wanted by the President for an important mission. While he is adjusting himself back to life at work, a number of apparently unconnected events take place in different parts of the world. A Japanese businessman buys a piece of land in Saipan, taking the amount of land in that country held by Japanese interests to 50.016%. An American submarine disappears during a training exercise. A bomb goes off in Sri Lanka. Can Jack Ryan connect up the threads and save the world? It goes without saying that this will be made into a movie, like most of Clancy's other books. You almost have to picture Jack Ryan as a Harrison Ford figure, all craggy face and dry wit. I think I even found a movie pointer hidden in the name of one of the characters. The President's chief-of-staff is called Arnie van Damm, surely a reference to action movie stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude van Damme. I had to chuckle at one of the Wall Street crash scenes. The dollar plummets and a bond specialist is staring aghast at his screen. In a panic, the man asks the trader next to him whether it is a correction or what? '' 'Correction from what? To what?' '' asks the bond trader. Clancy then gives us the bond trader's thoughts. ''He had decisions to make. He had the life savings of real people to protect, but the market wasn't acting in a way he understood.'' Protecting savings? This seems to me an unusually noble reaction. Perhaps the bond traders I know are more selfish and cynical than the ones handling Clancy's savings.