Rainbow Six (novel)

Rainbow Six (novel)

infobox Book |
name = Rainbow Six
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = First edition cover
author = Tom Clancy
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series = Ryanverse
genre = Thriller, Novel
publisher = G P Putnam's Sons
release_date = August 1998
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 740 pp (first edition, hardback)
isbn = ISBN 0-399-14390-4 (first edition, hardback) & ISBN 0-425-17034-9 (paperback edition)
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. There is a series of video games by the same name.


Several NATO countries have collectively organized an elite counterterrorist unit, composed of the best soldiers from the militaries of several nations, named "Rainbow". Based in Hereford, England (real-life home of the 22nd SAS Regiment), 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", its American funding directed through the Department of the Interior by Congress, then through The Pentagon's Office of Special Projects, with no connection whatsoever to the Intelligence Community. Fewer than a hundred people in Washington, D.C. know that Rainbow exists.


"Rainbow Six" refers to John Clark, the leader of Rainbow. In American military jargon, "six" refers to the commander of a military unit.

Plot summary

In a prelude to the story, Clark, Ding Chavez, and Alistair Stanley (a former SAS operative and second-in-command of Rainbow after Clark) are on a plane bound for England. They foil an attempted hijacking of the plane by rather amateurish Basque separatists. Immediately after the plane lands, the three have to leave before the media arrive, so as to avoid losing the secrecy with which the operation was set up. ( Due to a government license, Clark, Chavez and Stanley had been allowed to board the plane with semiautomatic pistols.)

A rather long section of the book describes the extreme training that Rainbow personnel go through, building a highly effective and cohesive pair of squad-sized operational units. Soon, a bank in Bern, Switzerland is taken over by would-be robbers led by wanted terrorist Ernst Model. They have taken hostages and already executed one of them. A Rainbow team is deployed to the scene, and after a short standoff, is able to successfully breach the bank and kill the terrorists with no further loss of hostage lives.

Shortly after this incident, Rainbow is again deployed, this time to Austria, where two wanted German terrorists, husband and wife duo Hans Fürchtner and Petra Dortmund, had attempted to kidnap wealthy Austrian businessman Erwin Ostermann. While the terrorists are en route to a helicopter to make their getaway, the Rainbow teams are able to ambush and kill them.

In a third incident, in Spain, terrorists take over WorldPark, a fictional amusement park. The terrorists take around thirty children hostage, and demand the release of Carlos the Jackal. Rainbow is again deployed. In an attempt to force the terrorists to surrender, John Clark orders the power to be cut. In retaliation, the terrorists execute a hostage—a terminally ill Dutch girl. The Rainbow team manages to eliminate all of the terrorists without further loss of life. The surprising pace of terrorist incidents leads Clark to be suspicious; also, the terrorists involved in each incident are typically older, inactive terrorists not seen in many years. Later, Clark discovers that a retired KGB officer, Col. Dmitriy Popov, has been investigating Rainbow, but not soon enough to prevent Popov from having "cased" Rainbow once he figured out who they are.

The cause of the sudden outbreak of terrorism is radical eco-terrorists, who are owners and employees of a large and successful biotechnology firm. They engineer a modified version of the Ebola virus, nicknamed "Shiva"; they also engineer two vaccines: a phony one to covertly spread the Shiva virus; and an effective vaccine to protect themselves. Their plan is to infect the air conditioning system at the Sydney Olympics, spreading the disease across the world when the infected attendees return home. They will then use their firm to distribute further quantities of the disease, disguised as a vaccine, to nearly every person in the world, killing everyone but their selected few, who (living in a sealed underground redoubt in Kansas and protected by the secret "B" vaccine) will rebuild the world in an environmentally friendly way. They've hired the ex-KGB officer investigating Rainbow and instructed him to foment the terrorist incidents Rainbow has so adroitly handled, to increase awareness of terrorism in order to get a security contract for the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

Later, Popov contracts members of the PIRA to ambush Rainbow on their home territory at Hereford, to remove them from the equation of their impending attack. The PIRA takes several hostages in a hospital—including Patsy Clark Chavez (Ding's pregnant wife), M.D., and Sandy Clark, R.N.— and ambushes Team One. Rainbow responds by jamming the terrorist's communications and deploying Team Two to clear the hospital and kill the remaining gunman. The PIRA, however, succeeds in its own right: its counterattack is ultimately successful, crippling Rainbow Team One and leaving the way open for the deployment of Shiva at the Olympics.

As a reward, Popov is taken into the eco-terrorists' project, but when he learns of their plans, Popov has a crisis of conscience. He kills a survivalist in the movement named Foster, flees to New York, and contacts John Clark directly to stop the plan. Fortunately, Ding Chavez and a few other members of Rainbow are onsite at the Sydney Olympics as security consultants and are in place to stop the person who was planning to infect the stadium's cooling system.

Having failed to destroy civilization with their plague, the eco-terrorists retreat to their secondary refuge in the Brazilian rainforest, which they had planned to do anyway, hoping to negotiate a deal to return to the U.S. in a few years. Clark is rather bitter about the fact that these people will likely be able to return to power in a few years because of legal technicalities, and so decides to pursue them to their refuge. Rainbow, under John Clark's leadership, deploys to the rainforest, first killing the terrorists' numerically superior but much less competent militia force, then blowing up the facility and stripping them of all of civilization's aids, including their clothes. The probability that any of them will return is slight, as Chavez wryly points out that even with all his equipment and training (Ranger School, among others), he himself would have a tough time surviving in such an environment.

In the epilogue, the Horizon Corporation is said to have suffered a major blow with the mysterious loss of its chairman, but was rebounding with a new drug to combat heart attacks, Kardiklear. Popov is living on a ranch in Montana, which he had bought from the Foster estate. Just before Popov killed Foster, Foster told Popov that he'd discovered gold on his Montana property but it hadn't meant anything to him in view of the future he was embarking on.

Release Details

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

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