Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Parrothead review: Prayers for the Assassin

A novel by Robert Ferrigno

I have always enjoyed books with a science fiction edge to them but no matter the genre if a book has great characters that I can have some empathy for I have long found that I can read just about any type of novel. Such a novel I found recently called "Prayers for the Assassin" has great characters and a setting that while not exactly science fiction did have me up all night to finish it. This book can best be described as fitting in the same genre as Margaret Attwood's "A Handmaiden's Tale" in which a radical group overthrows the US government and establishes a Christian theocracy a few decades down the road. I read both the book and saw the movie that was actually pretty good. I never felt it slammed Christianity in general but was a true indictment of the holier-than-thou, both religious and secular, that wish to impose a forced moral or behavior code on everyone.

"Prayers for the Assassin" also has to do with a religious dominated American government but instead of it being Christian in origin it is Islam that holds sway over a Islamic States of America. The basic premise is that in a few years the US will be ran out of Iraq with our country going into a mega post Vietnam-like malaise. Given the empty bromines of the Christian faith, which I see in real life to a certain extent, along with a number of celebrity conversions the Islamic faith in America sees an even bigger rate of growth that it has before. This growth is not commented on by the author but I got the impression that for the most part the American people, both Christian and Moslem, adapted to it. That is until in 2015 when two city busting nuclear bombs explode in New York and Washington DC. along with a dirty bomb at Mecca which effectively decapitate most of the US government, except for the newly elected US president who happens to be Moslem. With the government effectively destroyed a great number of Americans find relief and answers not in a synagogue or church but in a mosque resulting in a huge conversion in which a majority of the US population becomes Moslem. What helps this conversion is when it is learned that Israel was behind the attacks on the American cities and Mecca in an attempt to frame radical Moslem's. This knowledge results in a joint Arab-European attack on Israel destroying it as a state. Only an offer from Russia to give the Israeli survivors refuge prevents them form being completely wiped out.

Back in America the new majority proclaims a new Islamic government for the nation. The South, which largely stayed Christian, declares its independence and sets up its own government. A Second American Civil War erupts which in the end causes the deaths of 38 million Americans. This war saw the use of biological weapons on both sides creating dead zones around many cities, although no nukes were used. The Islamic States of America occupies the "blue states" of the north east and mid-west, most of the Rocky Mountain states, and the Pacific coast. The states that make up the old Confederacy along with West Virginia, Kentucky, and most of Missouri make up the nation called the Bible Belt. Nevada and Mormon Utah, controlling a small piece of Idaho, are both free states and unaligned surrounded by the ISA. Nevada is still the gambling center for the now divided nation with many from both acting as if the war had never happened. I guess even after the death of millions in civil war what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Utah I believe ends up a theocracy in its own right but other than hints that there is no love lost between it and the ISA not much is said. The author has South Florida independent of the Bible Belt government. And given the information in a two chapter preview of the second book that might be the best place in all of the former US. The Bible Belt government has little power and appears to be largely controlled by warlords.

The heroes of the book are Rakkim Epps and Sarah Douglas who just happen to be lovers and the ward and niece of Redbeard, the leader of state security for the ISA. Rakkim was a member of the very elite fedayeen, a special forces unit for the ISA, who for reasons we never really learn has lost a great deal of his faith. Sarah is a smart modern 21st century Moslem lady who upset a Taliban-like group called the Black Robes with her book that says the West fell more to the decay of popular culture than divine intervention. The Black Robes job are to police fundamentalist Islamic believers in the ISA but due to various power hungry members are trying to gain more influence over the moderate ISA government. Sarah has learned information dealing with the basic foundation of the ISA and now her life is very much in danger. At first Redbeard enlists Rakkim, who have fallen out with each other, to find Sarah. Along the way Rakkim learns that someone called the Old One was hired another former fedayeen to kill Sarah and him. It turns out that the Old One wishes to establish a global caliphate and was the one actually behind the New York/Washington/Mecca bombings. As Sarah and Rakkim race to gather the needed info to expose the Old One they learn that he also had a third city busting bomb planted inside the Three Gorges damn in China that was suppose to go off the same time as the others. China at this time is the world's leading superpower and the destruction of the damn with the cities were suppose to seal the fate of Israel but unforeseen complications prevented it along with the bomb being lost.

As Sarah and Rakkim race through to gather the needed information to expose the Old One to the ISA and the world a disfigured and polluted America is described. Disneyland is in ruins and the location of less than legal activities. The California coastline is awash in oil leaking from oil rigs sitting just off shore. And a small section of a chapter involved the telling of how Rakkim was part of a fedayeen operation several years before going into the radioactive hell of New York looking for financial records supposedly stored underground. The only New York survivor appears to have been the cockroach, billions of them, I’ll go no further on this one. Not to leave the Bible Belt nation out but we are informed that due to an ISA embargo the Christian states are even more polluted due to their dependence on coal. Both side in this future hell are seeing a drop in life expectancy and the collapse of a damaged and worn out infrastructure with nations such a Nigeria and the Mexican Empire surging ahead in development and status in the world. We are even offered hints that both nations are being played as pawns by new 21st century great powers. In the two chapter preview of the second book a new major character, I believe, from the Bible Belt is taken hostage by the men from a Tennessee warlord flying a modern Chinese helicopter that the new character knows China never sells to anyone overseas. Not even the Bible Belt president flies in such a new model.

The author, I read from other reviews, may have a axe to grind on several subjects and issues in this novel but I have not read any of his other works so I can’t comment. This novel was one great thriller giving a superb plot and great supporting characters. I highly recommend it and I will be looking forward to the second and third books of the announced trilogy.

9 comments:

MadMike said...

I am ordering this book from Amazon the minute I stop typing Beach. This is a great review and you should put it on Amazon.com. I used to do that regularly and have several dozen reviews on site. I then got out of the habit and now I am rambling. Forgive me:-)

Beach Bum said...

Mike, one curious thing I did not address just inside the book is an illustrated map of the former US and how the country is divided different from my post. My descriptions of the states making up the ISA and Bible Belt came from the author's words inside the book. I'm unsure why there would be a difference between the two. I would very much like to know what you thought of it after you read it.

Vigilante said...

Although I didn't take pains to read through this as meticulously as I should have, this scenario reminds me of a movie I took my entire family to decades ago, called "Red Dawn". Definitely an implausible scenario, like this one.

It was a left-wing crowd in the theatre that night and many, many outbursts of raucous laughter. We all (in the family) remember one line in particular but it is a little off-color and I would offend some of your readers by repeating it here and further hijacking this conversation.

Beach Bum said...

Vigil, its cool. Whatever the comment might have been you can't offend me. And if any reader are offended, screw them. But Red Dawn and this book, no matter how beyond the scope of possible reality, were great thrillers that entertained. No matter how out of the box they are at times some particle of a current situation can drift close by. The best description I can give is sort of like the movie Armageddon with Bruce Willis. While an asteroid or comet impacting the Earth is a very real, but small, possibilty that movie was so far off the mark about real science to almost make it laughable. But the tense atmosphere of the story, great characters, and awesome babes(Liv Tyler) made the movie enjoyable for me. Then again, I'm easy to please. But Red Dawn did come out right after I finished basic training, and the theater was filled with a bunch of freshly trained , crazy, young soldiers. We ate that movie up and to be honest I have a DVD copy.

Vigilante said...

Liv Tyler would understandably lead any one to "suspend his disbelief" in the most unlikely of scenarios.

MadMike said...

I loved Red Dawn and I will get back to you Beach.

MadMike said...

Beach I have been to Borders and Barnes and Noble and both were sold out of this book because they ordered too few copies. They said it all of a sudden has become popular. I did find the other one and am reading it as we speak. I will order the other from Amazon.

Vigilante said...

Red Dawn sucks.

Melvin said...

Its amazing....
thanks for sharing...


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