Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Islamic Republic of America: Part 5

Prayers for the Assassin

“I certainly hope I’m writing fiction, rather than prophecy...”

The words of Robert Ferrigno, author of the hands-down most important work of fiction in our estimation this year, Prayers for the Assassin (Scribner, 2006). We promised we’d review it here, only to discover that for once the old Roscoe—ordinarily nothing if not prescient—has been a little slow on the draw on this one. So instead, let’s play catch-up on this blockbuster that’s been out since February, hitting some highlights.

Ferrigno, author of eight other well-received crime novels, has broken with his own genre to produce this dystopic picture of America in 2040 as an Islamic republic, the Islamic States of America. Our take: Extraordinarily well conceived, written and executed, especially for a concept with such a high aim. This guy’s got a keen eye, excellent sensibilities and a wicked sense of humor (particularly appealing to Roscoe). We agree with the Philadelphia Inquirer: If you read just one book this year, let it be this one

The basic plot line involves a hunt for a missing damsel named Sarah who knows the real truth behind suitcase-nuke attacks that left Washington, New York and Mecca in radioactive ruins and was blamed on the Jews. The hero is a disaffected Muslim feyadeen named Rakkim, who is tracking Sarah while being pitted against a pathological assassin named Darwin, who would be right at home in a Dean Koontz novel.

This kind of story could easily descend into purple pot-boiler prose, but not in Ferrigno’s hands, who handles it all like a master. By his own account, he spent two years researching the subject of radical Islam—and it shows. National Review Online’s John J. Miller put it this way:

This, in fact, may be the chief reward of the book: The creation of an alternate reality that abides by a set of internally consistent rules as well as a place that reminds us of what’s at stake in the war on terror. In Ferrigno’s future, the Superbowl is played at Khomeini Stadium, cab drivers have Osama and Zarqawi emblems dangling from their rearview mirrors, LAX is called Bin Laden International, Jews try to escape to Canada on a 21st-century version of the Underground Railroad, Disneyland is a slum overtaken by prostitutes, and radical Muslims have tried to blow up Mt. Rushmore just as the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.

This is a rich venue. Scribner reportedly shelled out some big bucks for an avant garde promotional campaign geared to blogs and the Internet, including a Prayers for the Assassin Web site that one could get lost in for a long time. More about all of this later.


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