|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (September 2013) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
|Author||Tom Clancy, with Mark Greaney|
|Series||Jack Ryan universe|
|Publisher||G. P. Putnam's Sons (Hardback Edition), Berkley Books (Paperback Edition)|
|December 4, 2012|
|Media type||Print (hardback), (Paperback)|
|Pages||868 pp (hardback edition), 598 pp (Paperback Edition)|
|ISBN||9780399160455 (Hardback Edition), ISBN 9780425262306 (Paperback Edition)|
|Preceded by||Locked On|
|Followed by||Command Authority|
Abridged and unabridged audiobooks were released on CD in 2012 and both are read by Lou Diamond Phillips.
On assignment in Istanbul to take down a group of Libyan ex-intelligence operatives that led to the death of Brian Caruso, Campus paramilitary operatives John Clark, Domingo Chavez, Dominic Caruso, Sam Driscoll, and Jack Ryan Jr. are individually assigned specific individuals to assassinate. While the first four assassinations go off without a hitch, Jack Jr. discovers that the identities of the Campus operatives have been discovered and seeks to destroy the trace by taking his target's computer hard drive and regrouping with the rest of the operatives.
Meanwhile, in China, President Wei Zhen Lin is facing mounting political opposition due to an economic recession and is facing the possibility of being utilized as a political scapegoat by the top echelon of the Central Committee for the country's economic problems. Wei was close to suicide until his inevitable arrest is prevented by General Su Ke Qiang, the leader of the Central Military Commission of China. Su's rescue of Chairman Wei is part of his mission that starts with the retaking and total Chinese control of the South China Sea by military force, forcefully retaking Hong Kong and Macau, and then the retaking of Taiwan. Knowing that a direct incursion into the South China Sea will bring in the military might of the United States, Su also has the help of Dr. Tong Kwok Kwan, the head of China's cyberespionage and cyberwarfare militia, codenamed Ghost Ship and located in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, former Russian foreign intelligence operative Valentin Kovalenko is abruptly sprung out of prison and offered a choice: Work for a mysterious organization or be returned to prison where he will be killed. Kovalenko chooses to work for the organization and his death is faked. In China, American sales manager Todd Wicks is blackmailed into working for the Guoanbu by means of a honeypot operation. In exchange for handing over a disk drive with a RAT embedded into it to Hendley Associates, Todd will not be charged with solicitation of a prostitute by the Chinese. In Washington, CIA analyst Melanie Kraft, the girlfriend of Jack Ryan Jr, is blackmailed into helping FBI Senior Special Agent Darren Lipton into spying on Jack Jr in exchange for covering up the fact that her father, a former USAF colonel and military attache, leaked intelligence to Pakistan.
John Clark decides to retire from the Campus on the account of his age and that his shooting hand has still not fully recovered. Meanwhile, Campus technology director Gavin Biery discovers from the hard drive seized by Jack Jr. that the intelligence operatives were working for the Chinese and finds the work of a hacker with the handle FastByte22. After President Wei publicly declares his plan to take the South China Sea by military force if necessary, President Jack Ryan decides to send a Virginia-class submarine to Subic Bay to send a message to the Chinese that the United States will not sit idly by regarding the South China Sea.
In Hong Kong, CIA agent Adam Yao is tailing a counterfeit computer chip manufacturer who is affiliated with the Triads when he spots Zha Shu Hai, a wanted hacker in the US going by the hacker handle FastByte22. After a US Reaper drone on a mission in Pakistan is hacked and attacks friendly forces, President Ryan orders all UAVs to be locked on base. In Hong Kong, Adam's request to Langley to more assets to be assigned to monitoring Zha is denied, but his request catches the eye of Jack Jr, who goes to Hong Kong with Domingo and Gavin under the guise of hiring Adam to investigate FastByte22 for theft of Intellectual Property.
After the Chinese invade the Scarborough Shoal with the sinking of a Philippine patrol boat, President Ryan orders a carrier strike group to be moved from the East China Sea towards the coast of Taiwan in order to defend Taiwan. While monitoring FastByte22 in Hong Kong, Ding, Jack Jr, and Adam are caught in an ambush and brief gunfight and car chase between Triads and a unit of SEAL Team Six, sent by the DOD to capture Zha and bring him back to the United States. Jack Jr, Ding, and Gavin then return to the States. Tong, upon learning that Zha had been captured by the US, declares the Ghost Ship location to be compromised and relocates the office to Guangzhou. Adam's neighbor is killed in a car bombing intended for Adam, after which he vanishes off the radar and is presumed dead.
Meanwhile, after US negotiations with the PRC are unsuccessful and the threat of a military invasion of Taiwan seems imminent, an Indian frigate is rammed by a Chinese submarine. The submarine is attacked, resulting in the Chinese navy attacking and heavily damaging the Indian aircraft carrier Viraat, deployed to the region to protect its own interests. The Chinese then warn President Ryan to pull back the USS Ronald Reagan three hundred nautical miles from China, a distance that would render the US Navy incapable of defending Taiwan. President Ryan then decides to pull back the USS Ronald Reagan, but not before covertly sending a contingent of Marines fighter pilots along with the USS Nimitz to reinforce the Taiwanese. While in a CIA safe house under the guard of five CIA agents in Georgetown, Zha, along with the CIA agents, are assassinated by a Divine Sword unit on the orders of Center.
Meanwhile, Junior and Gavin pick up intelligence that Center has a data center located in Miami. Defying orders from Operations Director Sam Granger, Junior and Dominic go to Miami to check it out, only to be nearly killed by a Russian hit squad on Center's orders. (Center used a Trojan, that was planted on Jacks phone by Melanie, who believed that it was by order of the FBI.) After a brief gunfight and a hasty exit, Junior is put on suspension and begins to investigate how Center knew of his intentions to go to Miami. Upon realizing that Melanie had bugged his phone when he was not around, Junior came to the conclusion that Melanie was a spy for the Chinese. While following Melanie one day on her way to work, Jr witnesses and intervenes on an attempt by the Divine Sword unit to assassinate Melanie, killing one operative and seriously wounding another. Jr then calls in Clark for assistance and then leaves for Hong Kong to aid Adam Yao.
In order to draw international support to their side, the People's Republic of China launches a charm offensive and Caruso, Chavez, and Driscoll attend in Beijing under the covers of journalists with the objective of meeting an armed underground faction of Chinese government dissidents. It is there that they realize the faction is smaller than originally thought and less organized. Meanwhile, realizing that the Campus is aware of the existence of the Ghost Ship through the RAT drive, the Divine Sword is ordered to attack the Campus and erase their hard drives. John Clark and Melanie witness the attacks and intervene, resulting in the killing in all but two Divine Sword operatives taken captive and the capture of Kovalenko. During the interrogation, Kovalenko reveals that Ghost Ship communicates with its overseas operates via encrypted network and that he possesses a means of communicating with them. With the help of Gavin Biery, Clark and Kovalenko are able to deduce that Dr. KK Tong is the head of Ghost Ship.
Meanwhile, realizing that his days are limited and that Chairman Su has been manipulating him for his own gain, President Wei leaks the location of Chairman Su during a negotiation with President Ryan who in turn divulges that information to Clark. Adam, certain that the Ghost Ship has relocated to the mainland, crosses into China with Jack Jr where they deduce the Ghost Ship and China's cyberwarfare capability is now headquartered in the northern part of Guangzhou. Upon relaying that information to President Ryan via Mary Pat Foley, President Ryan is able to centralize the American military effort on one location and thereby greatly minimize the number of innocent casualties. Clark, upon realizing that Chavez, Caruso, and Driscoll are dangerously outnumbered, departs for Russia with the two Divine Sword captives. Upon talking to FSB Director Stanislav Biryukov, Clark then leaves for Beijing with Russian military aid to aid in the assassination of Chairman Su.
Jack Jr and Adam witness the bombing of the Ghost Ship headquarters in Guangzhou and decide to flee to Hong Kong for their safety. Along the way, they rescue an American Marine pilot who was shot down during the military strike. Caruso, Clark, Chavez and Driscoll manage to ambush and assassinate Chairman Su with few casualties and place the two Divine Sword captives there as scapegoats and escape to Russia where they then depart for the United States. President Ryan then addresses the nation and threatens to have a fleet blockade the Malacca Straits, crippling the Chinese further by starving them of their oil supplies unless they ceased military activity around the South China Sea. President Wei, having lost the support of Chairman Su and knowing that the Standing Politburo is looking to blame everything on him, commits suicide with a pistol, but does it incorrectly and chokes to death on his own blood.
Upon his return from Hong Kong, Jack Jr visits Melanie and she explains to him that the reason that she spied on him was because she was blackmailed by FBI Special Agent Darren Lipton in exchange for him not disclosing that her father, a former Air Force colonel, was once an intelligent asset for Egyptian intelligence. Jack Jr and Melanie track Lipton to a hotel room where it is revealed that he was also an intelligence operative working for the Ghost Ship. After finding out that Lipton and the investigation was more about the Campus and an attempt to discredit his father, Jr threatens Lipton to resign or else he will reveal him double doings to Mary Pat Foley. After the funerals of the Campus members who were killed, Mary Pat visits Melanie who states that she resigned her post and plans to leave Washington to return home. Jr, having given his after action report at the Campus, goes to have dinner with his family.