Reviewer Steve Moore: Steve is a full-time writer and ex-scientist. Besides his many technical publications, he has written six sci-fi thrillers (one a novel for young adults), many short stories, and frequent comments on writing and the digital revolution in publishing. His interests also include physics, mathematics, genetics, robotics, forensics, and scientific ethics. Follow Here for his WEBSITE.
Author: Ben Coes
Publisher: St. Martins
Author: Ben Coes
Publisher: St. Martins
Military adventure and thriller junkies will get their fixes and then some by this new book in Ben Coes’ Dewey Andreas series. Savor it. Enjoy the adrenalin rush. Following that, when you wake up at night worrying about reality versus fiction, be thankful you have real people like Dewey waging real-life battles against terrorism.
When ex-special forces member Dewey Andreas is asked what the greatest danger to America is, he replies, “Radical Islam.” The question should have been: What is the current, greatest danger to humanity? My answer goes beyond Dewey’s: it’s radical fundamentalism, aka terrorism, in all its forms. America and the Western world are its usual targets. The U.S. has homegrown terrorists and international terrorists. We also have to face off with the rogue nations—whole countries bent on destroying us. The most dangerous of these is Iran, the villain in this adventure.
While the Islamic Republic of Iran is currently run by psychopaths, the author is fair. He and I and most people recognize there are good people in Iran—people who wish their rulers weren’t beasts and yearn for the freedoms we often take for granted. With time, they could rise up, if the actions of their rulers don’t turn their country into nuclear slag first. If those rulers make good on their vows to destroy Israel, their stupidity can only have that consequence as nuclear Armageddon comes to the Middle East.
This novel accurately portrays the fanaticism of Iran’s current rulers. It is fiction, but the initial events are plausible and possibly imminent. Reality might not be so kind as fiction, though—there might not be a Dewey Andreas to steal the Iranian’s bomb from under their noses. One or more cities in Israel could be nuked although Iran knows Israel or the U.S. can retaliate. The Middle East is a real nuclear powder keg about to blow. Never mind that this fanatic behavior of the Iranians is self-destructive. They don’t seem to care. Hatred of the West in general and Israel in particular erases all reason and logic.
The Last Refuge is a violent story. It is the tale of a situation so out of control that violence must be met with violence. It is a situation where both the CIA and Mossad have their hands tied, not by bureaucracy, but by circumstance. It is an extreme Tom Clancy military adventure told in a modern way and with many interesting details. It is not for the squeamish. Brave men and women die—some good Iranians among them.
It took me a few chapters to become hooked. The author’s prose is raw and linear with few flashbacks. The latter could be used early on to provide a better hook. For readers who persevere, it doesn’t matter. Once I was hooked, I couldn’t put my Kindle down. I was in an armchair marathon. Mr. Coes out-Clancy’s Clancy.
I could have done without the character of Jessica. Let Hollywood add the love interest for Dewey (a movie based on the book would be better than any in the Rambo series). Moreover, the fact that she is both (a) National Security Adviser and (b) Dewey’s love interest seems a bit farfetched. This also slowed down this old fish from becoming hooked.
There are definite parallels between the real Iran and Coes’ fictional Iran. The fictional President Mahmoud could be the clone of Ahmadinejad. The fictional Ayatollah Ali Suleiman is modeled after the current Supreme Ruler Ali Khamenei. The fictional characters seem nicer than the real ones, though. Moreover, the fictional Mahmoud is stupid; the real Ahmadinejad is a sly fox with rabies. The horrors of Evin Prison and the secret police’s fearsome grip on the citizenry seem all too real—the portrayal of the tortures of a kidnapped Israeli are sure to make your skin crawl.
Iranian history is regrettably shortened—a mistake, but only because it explains the origins of the Iranians’ radical fundamentalism. As a favor to the company that became British Petroleum (yes, the same BP of Gulf oil spill fame), the Dulles brothers ordered the CIA to help MI6 to organize the overthrow of the democratically elected Mossadegh government in 1954. The Shah was installed as a puppet controlled by British and American interests. Ayatollah Khomeini fled into exile.
The Shah’s regime was as bloody and fascistic as Saddam Hussein’s. After the Islamic Revolution, it makes sense that there was vestigial ill will towards the West, and Britain and America in particular. Yet the radical clerics needed an enemy and scapegoat that was geographically closer. Israel was the obvious choice for the devil close at hand—the U.S. became the Great Satan. The pair became the focus of Iran’s hatred—political, cultural, and religious.
Perceived grievances are often magnified over time into cultural hatreds. And countries make mistakes. The Dulles brothers might very well have thought they were fighting the just battle against communism (Mossadegh was a socialist, not a communist), just as those CIA agents helping the Taliban and al Qaeda fight the Russians in Afghanistan thought they were doing the right thing. There is one clear thing the Middle East has taught us: “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is not a valid foundation for sane foreign policy.
Mr. Coes doesn’t bother with such analyses of historical perspective. There are pros and cons for this, of course. There is no doubt that it would somewhat detract from the flow of the story. Still: “‘Iran began this cycle of violence,’ said Dewey. “Thirty years ago…’” The overthrow of the Mossadegh government was fifty-five years ago and the Shah’s reign was also violent. No matter. Dewey Andreas is living in his present. His past is only important to the extent that it has prepared him for his battle in the here and now. His focus is necessary, his myopia a matter of survival.
Of course, whatever history led us into this fight with the jihadist fanatics is irrelevant in the sense that we in the West are now fighting for our survival and way of life. Irrespective of errors made by our governments in the past, the West cannot just roll over and die. Terrorism is a terrible cancer that must be controlled and excised from humanity if humanity is to survive. A return to the Dark Ages is not an acceptable solution.
Some minor points: I read a pre-release PDF of this book. Some rather abrupt changes in point-of-view could be explained by this fact. Otherwise, I recommend a judicious use of *** by St. Martins’ editors. I found only one error in all the description of military doctrine, techniques, and hardware. Mr. Coes states: “Multistatic radar acted to disperse incoming radar signals.” I can think of several ways to disperse incoming radar signals. Multistatic radar is not one of them. But this might be just a fine point of semantics.
To end on a positive note,
let me say that this book is on my list as one of the best military
and counterterrorism thrillers, right up there with Clancy’s The
Teeth of the Tiger and Forsyth’s The Afghan. This genre
is difficult because more inside information and diligent,
painstaking research are required than for most thrillers. At the
same time, the author’s prose has to move the action forward and
his characters need to jump off the page. Mr. Coes has done an
admirable job in all these aspects.
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