Part historical thriller, part philosophical exploration of religion, this occult detective story attempts to marry metaphysical musings with literary adventure.
Someone or something is killing the great architects of Paris. They’re dying gruesome deaths: self-combusting, melting, nearly bursting from giant kidney stones. Walter Wetwhistle (Wall has a knack for clever names: “Quentin Mollytop,” “Jean-Jean Le Jean,” etc.) is haunted by the ghost of his recently deceased partner and by a specter that coyly denies being the devil. Walter is soon caught in the web of a secret society bent on protecting its secrets. From here, Wall attempts to tell a grand, multicharacter, mystical adventure story in the tradition of Umberto Eco and Thomas Pynchon. Unfortunately, the author’s devotion to tortuously complex sentences, dense verbiage and overwrought, melodramatic dialogue causes this novel to collapse under the weight of its own ambition. The novel has plenty of potential, but with a plot lifted from familiar—and, at this point, overdone—tales of secret sects trying to protect the truth about Jesus Christ’s living descendants, the self-satisfied story confuses more than it thrills. The problem isn’t Wall’s ability to wrangle words into stimulating, descriptive sentences, which are, on occasion, beautiful and insightful: “In sharp relief, he saw the city laid out before him like a cemetery, a fossil garden, a conscious considered work, like an arcane interstellar map.” Rather, the problem is that Wall doesn’t always know when to stop writing. Exquisite moments are often overrun by neighboring sentences that are so complex as to be nearly indecipherable on first read: “Loping clouds skulked guiltily across a cerulean void like nascent treacheries.” This intense, overburdened writing style makes the novel a difficult slog, and muddled imagery doesn’t help. One character smiles “revoltingly like a gorgonzola cat.”
Full of potential but undone because of a lack of control.
A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.
In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.
A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.