In Roberts’ post-apocalyptic debut, the Lang family survives in a disintegrating United States occupied by the Chinese military.
The year 2016 sees America crumbling. With the Bill of Rights suspended, aerial drones target citizens by presidential order. Consumerism and debt have ruined the economy, while college graduates don’t know the meaning of self-sufficiency. What better time for the Chinese to invade and collect their due? When it happens, everyone is caught unawares except Cliffson Lang, his wife, Jean, and their friend Monk. Living in Oregon, they farm their own produce and raise chickens. They work hard (as do their sons, Zach and Dustin Lang), surviving within their means. They aren’t affected when the government cuts aid programs (to repay the Chinese) and rioters start destroying cities around the country. But shortly thereafter, the Chinese set off nuclear bombs in Washington, D.C., San Diego and Dallas. The invaders then begin collecting gold and silver from traumatized Americans nationwide. Monk and the Langs keep their spirits up, staying informed via ham radio about militia resistance to the Chinese and the carnage created by roving gangs. Debut author Roberts convincingly brings this hellish future to life. He begins the novel with frequent, sumptuous depictions of nature: “Scattered gray clouds rode across the sky on a chill zephyr born of winter, while a cool breeze played hide and seek throughout last year’s raspberry canes.” Such beauty allows the full weight of later atrocities to hit the reader: “Disfigured by Dustin’s shotgun blasts, the bodies left behind dark stains and chunks of flesh on the grass.” But between the peace and violence, there’s an endless barrage of political proselytizing. Roberts uses Cliffson to not only complain about modernity and its corrupting influence, but to vilify anyone who doesn’t share his mindset: “A brilliant spring sun was out and so were the witless, faddish people always there to chase the latest trend—each of them as brain dead as the next, Cliffson thought.” If readers can accept that, a solid action narrative awaits.
Morals and bullets fly in this cranky action thriller.
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.