Rainbow Six (novel)

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Rainbow Six
TomClancy RainbowSix.jpg
First edition cover
Author Tom Clancy
Country United States
Language English
Series Jack Ryan universe
Genre Techno-thriller
Publisher G. P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date
August 1998
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 740 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN 0-399-14390-4 (first edition, hardback) & ISBN 0-425-17034-9 (paperback edition)
OCLC 39069409
813/.54 21
LC Class PS3553.L245 R35 1998
Preceded by Executive Orders
Followed by The Bear and the Dragon

Rainbow Six is a techno-thriller novel written by Tom Clancy. It focuses on John Clark, Ding Chavez, and a fictional multi-national counterterrorist unit codenamed Rainbow, rather than Jack Ryan and national politics. It has been adapted into a series of video games by the same name.


Several NATO countries have collectively organized an elite counter terrorist unit named Rainbow composed of the best soldiers from the militaries of several nations. Based in Hereford, England (real-life home of the Special Air Service), the team is led by John Clark (who had the idea for Rainbow), a recurring character in Clancy's novels. Rainbow is "blacker than black" with its American funding directed through the U.S. Department of the Interior by the U.S. Congress, and then through U.S. Defense Department's Office of Special Projects, with no connection to the Intelligence Community. Fewer than a hundred people in the U.S. government know that Rainbow exists.


The idea for the title comes from the United States Color-coded War Plans, specifically the Rainbow Plans of the 1930s, where Rainbow Five is the last known plan. In these plans, various countries were given a color code, and the Rainbow Plans outlined strategies for dealing with potential conflicts between coalitions of countries. Rainbow Five, for instance, which is discussed extensively in the Plan Dog memo, details several U.S. strategies for America's involvement in World War II. For Rainbow Six, the aggressor is international terrorists. "Rainbow Six" also refers to John Clark, the leader of Rainbow, because "Six" is U.S. military terminology for a unit commander. Additionally the title symbolizes the multi-national nature of the elite unit: Like a rainbow contains many colors, the unit contains many nationalities.

Plot summary[edit]

Central Intelligence Agency operatives John Clark and Domingo Chavez join Special Air Service (SAS) officer Alistair Stanley in forming an elite multinational counter-terrorist unit known as Rainbow, based in Hereford, United Kingdom. The unit consists of a highly effective and cohesive pair of operational squads, supplemented by intelligence and technological experts from the SAS. Clark is the commanding officer, while Chavez leads one of the two squads. They were deployed in Switzerland, Austria, Australia, Spain, and Brazil.

The first deployment of Rainbow involves Chavez' squad in the rescue of hostages during a botched bank robbery in Bern, Switzerland. Several weeks later, Chavez is deployed to Austria, where a group of left-wing German terrorists have taken over the schloss of a wealthy Austrian businessman, Erwin Ostermann, in order to obtain imaginary "special access codes" to the international trading markets. Through careful planning and negotiating, the terrorists are persuaded to take their hostages out to a waiting helicopter, presumably to make their getaway. On their way to the helicopter, Rainbow's disguised shooters ambush and kill them.

Clark and his colleagues become suspicious about this flurry of activity from older terrorists. Unbeknownst to them, radical eco-terrorists from a biotechnology firm called the Horizon Corporation have orchestrated the previous attacks, having hired ex-KGB officer Dimitriy Popov to foment the incidents. The increase in terror attacks helps their security firm land a contract during the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. From within the Olympic security apparatus, they plan to launch a sophisticated bioweapon attack intended to wipe out the majority of the human race.

The conspirators, staunch environmentalists, believe that the great proliferation of humanity is destroying the biosphere and that the optimum number of humans in the world should not exceed half a million. Therefore, the "excess" billions must be killed off. The plan is to use the Olympics where people from virtually every country in the world are gathered, and infect athletes and spectators with a mutated form of Ebola which they would carry back to their countries. When the disease starts breaking out in various countries, the Horizon Corporation would announce that it had developed a vaccine and is set to produce it on a large scale, and be hailed as a savior. The world's governments would hurriedly organize giving the supposed vaccine to their entire populations. By the time it is realized that in fact it was the disease itself, it would be too late - the whole of humanity would be dead or dying, except for the "chosen few" who would get the real vaccine and who would inherit the emptied world. The fanatic conspirators, bearing no personal animosity to the billions they plan to kill, are utterly convinced of the justness of their actions and think of them as "saving the world" - i.e., saving the environment and the biosphere from the encroachment of destructive humanity.

All this remains hidden in the background, while Popov learns about Rainbow - whereupon he directs members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army to take over a local hospital in Hereford near Rainbow's base, take Clark and Chavez's wives hostage, and ambush one of Rainbow's squads. Rainbow and the SAS retake the hospital, capturing some of the terrorists. Interrogation reveals Popov's involvement in instigating the attack. Now the focus of a manhunt, Popov is kept hidden at Horizon's secret base in Kansas. Upon learning about the planned Olympic attack (and realizing that he has been deceived about the true nature of his employment), an appalled Popov escapes the compound and contacts Clark. Chavez is present at the Olympics as a security consultant and manages to thwart the attack.

Their plans destroyed, the eco-terrorists retreat to their refuge deep in the Brazilian rain forest, hoping to negotiate a deal to return to the United States. Clark, knowing that they may never be put on trial, tracks down the Brazilian hideout and deploys Rainbow to the location. After Rainbow defeats the eco-terrorists' militia force and destroys their facility and supplies, Clark has the survivors stripped naked and left to fend for themselves in the jungle, taunting them to "reconnect with nature." When no survivors resurface in nearby towns, one agent notes that although people try to preserve nature, nature is not known for returning the favor.

Film adaptation[edit]

In July 2017, Paramount Pictures announced plans to make a film adaptation of the novel with Akiva Goldsman as producer.[1]

Release details[edit]

  • 1998, U.S., G. P. Putnam's Sons ISBN 0-399-14390-4, Pub date ? August 1998, hardcover
  • 1998, U.K., Michael Joseph Ltd ISBN 0-7181-4336-1, Pub date 27 August 1998, hardback
  • 1998, U.S., Putnam Publishing Group ISBN 0-399-14413-7, Pub date ? August 1998, hardcover (Limited Edition)
  • 1998, U.S., Demco Media ISBN 0-606-17207-6, Pub date ? September 1998, unbound
  • 1998, U.S., Random House ISBN 0-375-70324-1, August 1998, paperback (Large Type Edition)
  • 1999, U.S., Berkley Publishing Group ISBN 0-425-17005-5, Pub date ? September 1999, paperback
  • 1999, U.S., Berkley Publishing Group ISBN 0-425-17034-9, pub date September 1999, mass market paperback


  1. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike. "Akiva Goldsman Moves To Paramount; 'Rainbow Six,' 'Ologies' & 'Avengelyne' On Menu". Deadline. Retrieved 12 July 2017. 

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