A debut novel offers the broad scope of a Hollywood blockbuster, with two formidable, high-tech groups at war.
In the very first scene of this book, the titular hero is beaten and maimed, calling into question how the rest of this tale could possibly play out. Lt. Othello Greene, the leader of America’s top special-ops team, has been captured by a high-tech terrorist group calling itself the Global Supremacy Federation, headed by a deeply evil man named Genesis. Greene, forced to kill a comrade for the sake of mercy, is tossed into a pit of hyenas, his torture broadcast to millions worldwide as a demonstration of power. But a renegade band called The Disciples of Khidar, a Muslim group that vows to help the oppressed, saves him. The Disciples are also high-tech, and use that technology to heal victims of war. They have tracked Greene and believe him to be sent by Allah for a greater purpose. As the GSF destroys more of the globe, killing world leaders and ravaging U.S. cities, a man named Khan tends to Greene and converts him to Islam by showing him his former religion, Christianity, is based on lies. U.S. President Heather Cotton tries to defy the GSF, but it quickly becomes clear the group has outthought the West and its allies and possesses superior technology; the world remains bent to the terrorists’ will until Greene can rejoin the fray. Baltimore tells a parallel story every few chapters of Greene’s high school years as an academic and sports star, and his relationship with his mother and his best friend, Kojo. The tales are on a global and local scale, and both lines benefit from that strategy. There are some fantastic twists involving supporting characters, especially in relation to a subplot about a mole in Cotton’s cabinet. But the trajectory of Greene’s story in both tracks can be a bit predictable at times. He wins the big game and The Disciples convert him to Islam fairly handily. The book, close to 800 pages, could have been streamlined. Baltimore has a real talent for writing an action scene and casting good and evil in bold relief in his characterization. But this is not a novel for the faint of heart; the violence can be intense. To further prove how sinister Genesis is, the narrative delivers a graphic depiction of child rape, which he orders to intimidate an ally who betrays him.
This terrorist tale reads like a thrilling but extremely violent action movie, with some intriguing twists in plot and philosophy.