A debut dystopian thriller about a gathering terrorist threat on American soil.
Roger Cross used to be an ace intelligence analyst, but after American military interventions in the Middle East turned disastrous, he was scapegoated and pushed out. Now a struggling private consultant, he gets called to the White House after what appears to be a terrorist assault on the National Press Club. After an overwhelming succession of apparently random attacks in Washington, D.C., Cross starts to discern a pattern that suggests something counterintuitive: a collaboration between foreign, Islamic fundamentalists and domestic, right-wing extremists. Meanwhile, the president authorizes the creation of the Rapid Response Force on Domestic Terrorism, a classified militia made up of 10,000 former soldiers. Cross’ ex-wife, Anna Dunnings, a talented reporter for the Washington Journal, discovers the secret militia’s existence while on assignment in Afghanistan. Controversy surrounds the group’s creation, and its lack of congressional oversight strikes many as brazenly unconstitutional. Increasingly, it appears that terrorists are planning a grand, grim assault to further their goal of revolutionary upheaval. First-time novelist Tulipan is a career journalist, and his microscopic analysis of detail and relentless investigatory spirit pervade each page. He adeptly creates an atmosphere of dread and makes the terrorists’ joy of destruction memorably creepy: “They listened to the radio with glee as report after report trickled in, riots, racial hatred, an ineffective government response.” Cross is consistently intriguing: he’s doggedly committed to his job, stymied by a serious illness that he conceals from everyone, and considers the end of his marriage to Anna the great failure of his life. The plot does flirt with implausibility, but Tulipan seems to know when to push the envelope and when to exercise restraint. This isn’t a breezy read, though, and some readers may feel crushed under the weight of narrative detail. Nevertheless, it’s an impressively relevant tale that artfully dramatizes the contemporary tension between the real need for security and the loss of liberty it might entail.
A fast-paced tale that’s sure to satisfy political junkies.