In Kerstetter’s debut novel, a prominent Washington, D.C., lawyer gets entangled in an African civil war when he moves to the fictional country of Mirembe as counsel for an American oil corporation.
Kerstetter presents a gut-wrenching account of greed, corruption and war in America and Africa. At the novel’s center is ex-military Bobby Harlan, a renowned, hotheaded attorney assigned to assist an American oil company in an African country plagued by AIDS, drugs and civil war. Harlan, a recent widower, has become a heavy drinker and an irresponsible businessman. However, he’s perfect for assisting Apex Oil in their endeavors in Mirembe because of his long-ago college romance with Mirembe’s head of state, Hafsat Oniola. Through artfully crafted prose, Kerstetter shows Harlan’s introduction to Mirembe, its poverty, violence and surprising beauty. The reader sees the cruel “rebels” who rape or mutilate anyone who thwarts their attempts to overthrow the regime. Harlan navigates the political straits of Mirembe first in an effort to solidify Apex Oil’s hold on the Mirembean economy and later, after being fired by his client, in an attempt to quell the disputes between the government and the rebels. Kerstetter is not shy about showing the depravity of the rebels, who constantly hack body parts from their victims. However, he also gracefully portrays the devotion of both armies to the land and to justice, however they perceive it. The novel’s title, a quote from James Merrill’s poem “A Prism,” is a clever choice; both Merrill’s poem and Kerstetter’s novel describe chaotic experiences as leading to a more ordered world. Against this backdrop of lawlessness, Kerstetter has created deliciously complex, morally ambiguous characters. The novel is longer than it needs to be, with many superfluous details. Even so, the author’s masterful juxtaposition of terror and transcendence throughout the tale confirms his skill as a storyteller.
A stunning tale of devastation and deliverance that offers a horrifying glimpse into the terror of guerilla warfare.
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.