An intense, militaristic drama centered on a plot against a U.S. nuclear power plant.
The events of prolific journalist, playwright and fiction writer Hamit’s (The Shenandoah Spy, 2008) alternative history novel take place in a fictional U.S. between the Oklahoma City bombing in 1997 and 9/11. From the first beat of the novel—during a panic-inducing walk through a security-risk situation in a nuclear facility’s control room—the tension hums. The alternate (hostile, frightening) America roils with lay militias encroaching on civil and governmental authorities. Life is so dicey, the beautiful, brassy Maria Lockhart must be escorted to her new position at the Indian Springs power plant by Lt. Murphy and co., who are armed with multiple submachine guns, handguns and a short barrel shotgun. Senior Plant Technician Jimmy Berger, “the guy who can fix what needs to be fixed without having to stop and think,” is wary and charming, and fortune favors the prepared in Hamit’s novel. Villains are amoral caricatures: irredeemable, hateful, murderous individuals—members of a paramilitary outfit financed by the drug money of “an old fart only staying alive so he can see the country ruined.” The militia’s acts are vicious but hapless, their inspiration falling somewhere between the Third Reich and al-Qaida. Bizarre touches pervade the novel: Militia members have dental coverage and are directed by a couple of ex-Soviets posing as Christian extremists. Dubious plot turns, potentially offensive descriptions (Lt. Murphy is described as having a voice “without a trace of the ghetto”), arcane military terms and voluminous plant safety and security procedures keep readers a little dazed.
An overloaded, high-adrenaline read for those willing to overlook significant flaws.