A wealthy Sheikh in Saudi Arabia devises a terrorist strategy to attack America internally and circumvent an open military confrontation in the author’s debut novel.
In objection to U.S. presence in the Middle East as well as the country’s abuse of power, Sheikh Saud formulates a strike similar to 9/11. He believes that a singular attack creating mass destruction would have the greatest reverberation. The Sheikh enlists the help of his friend/assistant Mr. Sultan and Russian scientists to produce a prion disease easily transmitted by contaminated insects, which he hopes to unleash upon American scientific and technological facilities and military sites. Regrettably, Abdelrahman seems more invested in his novel’s concept than the narrative. This seems especially true with Sheikh Saud, who the author gives very little background. Consequently, his opposition to America has no real basis and is further trivialized by his frequent contradictions. For example, he claims “no political ambitions” when his entire scheme is predicated on a political agenda. He is critical of U.S. propaganda, while praising the TV only if it “transmit[s] peaceful and informative program[s].” The Sheikh also condemns orchestrated acts of “disinformation” while freely admitting to brainwashing and lying to Sultan to support his plan. The story feels like it’s at a standstill as the Sheikh spends more time considering scenarios and potential obstacles—none of which he ever has to face—perpetually worried of a double-cross that never happens. The author provides some complexity when the Sheikh dreams of two jinn, or spirits with influence over humans, but one offers dubious advice while the other tries to purge the man of his doubts even though there was no indication of uncertainty. Motivation, in fact, doesn’t seem to exist, for Sheikh Saud or any of the characters involved in the conspiracy. The novel works best when the Sheikh isn’t on a soapbox, and the book’s final two sentences are more profound than any preceding passage.
A novel lacking in story and conflict, acting more as a sounding board for anti-American sentiments and political ideals.