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Posts Tagged ‘Al-Qaeda’

A Review of The Faithful Spy

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 25, 2014

The Faithful Spy (John Wells, #1)The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Faithful Spy was a very exciting book to read. I like spy/thriller novels, although I actually don’t read that many of them, and this was among the best I have read.

John Wells is a CIA agent who has successfully penetrated al Qaeda. He’s been with them for years, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, he hasn’t been in touch with his CIA bosses for years and they don’t even know if he’s still alive or if he’s still on their side. See, Wells has converted to Islam and learns to deplore America’s superficiality and arrogance. That said, he makes contact with Special Forces in Afghanistan after 9/11, which he didn’t foresee, and shortly after, he’s plucked from his Pakistani village by al Qaeda leaders to go back home to America for a hugely important mission, one they don’t fill him in on. Meanwhile, the head of al Qaeda’s nuclear “program” is captured in Iraq and, through torture, fills the US in on potential plots in the US and on John Wells.

Wells comes home and goes to the CIA, where he is given a hostile greeting by the director. However, his handler, Jennifer Exley, still believes in him. He’s put in a virtual prison, but escapes because he wants to stop al Qaeda from whatever it is they’re plotting. What follows is an exciting series of challenges, chases, biological warfare, and confrontations, ultimately with Omar Khandri, John’s al Qaeda handler.

When I read reviews of this book, I was shocked to see how many people viewed it as more of the same. They deplored the love story in the book and thought the middle part of it was boring. I couldn’t view it more differently. I thought the love story was great and really enjoyed the ending. I also thought some of the “boring” parts allowed the characters to be flushed out pretty fully, so I had no problem with that. Just because Wells has to wait to be contacted by his handler doesn’t mean it’s boring, sorry. I thought the terrorism scenarios painted by Berenson were horrifyingly realistic and well thought out. I think he did a great job with this book, and even though it shares some similarities with Frederick Forsythe’s The Afghan, it’s a really good book that stands on its own. Strongly recommended.

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A Review of The Afghan

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 3, 2014

The AfghanThe Afghan by Frederick Forsyth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unlike most reviewers I’ve encountered online, I really enjoyed this book. Perhaps it’s because it’s the first Forsyth I’ve read since Day of the Jackal, I don’t know. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I really wasn’t disappointed.

The plot revolves around British and American intelligence agencies finding out about a super secret Al-Qaeda plot to do something bigger and worse than 9/11. The questions are what, when, and where? Several people are brought in to do something about it and only a few people in both governments know about it. Mike Martin is a retired British paratrooper colonel who has olive skin and grew up in Iraq before moving to Britain. He’s recruited to become “the Afghan.” The *real* Afghan is a Gitmo prisoner who was a Taliban commander and who’s never been broken, and has been in solitary for five years. Martin is going to become this man. A fake trial is put together where it’s announced the Taliban leader is being let go and is being handed over to the Afghan government. There, Martin, as the Afghan, “escapes” and makes his was to Pakistan, where he finds help in getting back with the Al-Qaeda forces to fight against the West. Now, the plot was tiresome at times in going over the back story leading up to this. We have to wade through pages of Martin learning Pushtan (he already speaks Arabic), of his learning the Koran, of his learning how to pray properly so he won’t trip up and expose himself. The book drags here. And frankly, it drags most of the way through, as it’s bogged down with detail. Now I like detail, so I actually appreciated it, for the most part, and I think this is what many reviewers had problems with. Still, it was cumbersome, so I’ve lowered my rating from five to four stars. Along the way, Martin is connected with Al-Qaeda, who interrogates him to ensure he’s really who he claims to be, complete with a scar of his thigh that he had to have made by a CIA doctor. Hints at what the big surprise will be come halfway through the book, as we discover Al-Qaeda operatives researching shipping companies to find a large boat big enough to transport a lot of “goods” from Asia to America. It’s pretty easy to guess it won’t be a load of silks. But what will it be? When the authorities discover it’s coming on a boat, but don’t know what or where, they start scanning the ocean and boarding boats, first large, and then smaller. They are operating under the assumption that it’s a tanker that’s going to be sunk in a canal to demolish things economically by blocking shipping traffic for months. When they realize that’s not going to be it, they move on to plan B. Now, I’m not going to give away the ending, but I will say it’s somewhat anticlimactic. I thought with everything leading up to it, it’d be bigger, bolder, brighter, more extreme. Instead it was largely docile. Oh well. Really, not a bad book. I read it in less than a day, so it’s a quick, easy read. If you can get over extreme detail, I certainly recommend it. I found it fairly compelling.

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