Nuclear explosions in New York and Washington inspire a charismatic general to launch the 10th crusade against the Islamic world in this turbulent debut military thriller.
A U.S. ambassador learns that a massive nuclear terrorist attack was carried out with the assent and likely participation of Pakistani military leaders. In response, U.S. Army Gen. Michael Scofield leaks to the press his intention to attack the Saudi Arabian cities of Mecca and Jeddah with his “Templar Division.” The news inflames governments across the globe, just as Scofield had hoped. American hard-liners warn that an assault on Islam’s holiest sites with only 10,000 soldiers would be futile and argue instead for thermonuclear obliteration of the Arab world. Progressive politicians, meanwhile, want the rogue general reined in until governors and surviving congressmen appoint a new president of the United States. What neither side knows is that Scofield has an arsenal of incredible nanotechnologies which, when deployed, will render his troops, ships and planes all but invincible—and invisible. But why would Scofield, who’s known as much for his cruelty as for his 27 Purple Hearts, want to avoid using nukes? The ostensible reason is that he wants to avoid “complaints from [the] neighbors”—countries downwind from the fallout. But the real driver appears to be his religious zealotry, which is fostered, at least in part, by his profound visions; in one, for example, the Archangel Michael warns Scofield—known as the “Lion of Afghanistan”—that the man who “calls forth [the] conflagration” is orchestrating actions that will cause the general to be “a destroyer of nations.” (At another point, Scofield says that while Christ preached love, Islam preaches world domination.) However, Gaddis gives Scofield too many needless disquisitions about God, and readers may find these digressions, as well as the relentless technobabble involving nanotechnology, distracting. These side trips, which also include a confusing political subplot, deflate the tension in what might have been a gripping tale. Nevertheless, the story’s forceful denouement of desperate warfare, and Scofield’s final engagement, fully justifies the book’s title.
A grandly staged but unfocused thriller.