Author: Mike Maden
Publisher: GP Putnam's Sons
This was Book 4 of a series so I was prepared to be slightly lost. What I wasn’t prepared for was how far this book veered from the promise it began with.
The opening scene is set in the Kurdistan region in Northern Iraq where ISIS terrorists have taken over, laying waste the land and killing all those they denounce as kafirs. The ISIS are waging war not only against non-Muslims, but also on Shias and any Muslims not abiding by their regressive ideologies.
The writing wasn’t pretty. It tells it like it is, conjuring the heat and dust and the fatigue and horrors that cling to conflict ridden regions.
The first few chapters of the book bring out the modus operandi of the ISIS, the youth of their recruits, their murderous appeal.
I would have appreciated a glossary for the first few chapters. There were so many words that I could not understand. Words such as mahdi, ummah, jizya, taqiyya and dhimma.
But it was all for nothing. The first chapter talks about the ISIS, and I was prepared for a novel where the ISIS were the bad guys, but spoiler here, the focus shifted soon enough, and I felt a little cheated at that. There was no reason to tell me that Ahmed was born a Catholic but is now a Muslim and zealous in the interests of the caliphate. That he and others like him rape the women they capture, hanging the men and children, and leaving their bodies for insects to feast upon and as a grim warning to those who need it.
A whole chapter is wasted on Ahmed, with a generous back story built in, and all for nothing. He is a mere foot soldier in the ISIS, which itself is a footnote in this book.
It is hard to tell the period in which this book is set, but it is a time when America has already has a former woman President, and bionic body parts are in use.
Troy Pearce, a former CIA man, leaves to start his own firm, Pearce Systems, to deploy drone technology to protect his people and to be able to choose his battles without politicians dictating terms.
Very soon is becomes clear that there are vested interests that are itching for a war in the Middle East, and Vicki Grafton, chief of staff, aided by Vice President Clay Chandler, are on their side.
While President David Lane has a no new boots on the ground policy, Chandler believes The world goes to hell without strong American leadership.
Lane hopes to put in place a Drone Command with Pearce at the helm. While discussions on the subject are still on, a drone arrives on the White House campus, with a folded ISIS flag and the chilling printed letter from Caliph Abu Waleed al-Madi, the head of ISIS, that the flag be flown by 12 noon the following day or else America will face serious consequences. For every day thereafter that the flag is not flown, America will be hit further until the nation is brought to its knees in five days.
When the flag is not flown the first day, ISIS hit a few airports without wreaking any casualties. To make things more complicated, the Saudis want to protect themselves from an ISIS invasion and the Russians want to help the Americans in a war and get the sanctions on them lifted. And both want to profit from war.
No wonder peace is so elusive.
Alexandr Tarkovsky, the Russian ambassador to the US, and Al Saud, the Saudi ambassador to the US, try their best to get the US to commit to war against ISIS. And they have the support of Chandler, who insists that war is the only way.
The book helps us to understand the lives of the people on the killing grounds, no matter which side of the conflict they may be on. The author tells it like it is. How nations pursue their own agendas leaving the world a mess.
In the beginning, the author builds up his story well. We see the endless deliberations between the President and his advisory team as they discuss the best solution to be had under the circumstances. Whether they should ally with Russia and Saudi Arabia or fight a war alone, Pearce hopes that war will be averted.
The author brings out well the simmering politics played by vested interests. How tyrants are cultivated to suit certain needs. As Tarkovsky says to Chandler, Over and over, you keep supporting religious terrorists as a weapon against your secular enemies, but you create worse enemies in the bargain.
Pearce sounds another note of warning when he says, After nearly twenty years of military intervention, do you seriously believe the Middle East is more stable and secure than before we went in? That we are more secure?
While the understanding of the politics behind war was sound and the research on drones and related technology was explained well, much about this book was slapdash. Al Saud and Vicki Grafton were two characters whose names were not even included in the cast of characters, even though they play an important role through the book. On the other hand, the leaders of ISIS are mentioned even though they don’t show up after the first two-odd chapters.
Much as Drone Threat began well, it didn’t end quite smoothly. There was no effective resolution, and I got a sense of undue haste as the author sought to bring events to a close.
(I read an ARC from First To Read.)