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Critical Mass Hardcover – February 17, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this overheated thriller about nuclear terrorism from bestseller Strieber (2012: The War for Souls), Jim Deutsch, a CIA contract employee whose expertise is counterproliferation, has the world's fate in his hands as he races to foil the Islamic master-terrorist known as the Madhi. When Deutsch learns that some plutonium has been smuggled over the U.S. border from Mexico, he begins to suspect that America's elaborate homeland security apparatus has been compromised. His valiant efforts, alas, aren't enough to prevent the destruction of Las Vegas. As U.S. president William Fitzgerald ponders whether to launch devastating counterattacks aimed at much of the Muslim world, the tension rises, but the impact is undercut by some uneven prose (She looked back at him as if from another dimension, her gaze resplendent with the unquenchable hope of youth, her mother's proud lips, determined, supremely confident that her dad was the great man she believed him to be). (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Strieber, known for his science fiction and nonfiction speculation about extraterrestrials, tackles the war on terror in a page-turning thriller. James Deutsch, a government agent and expert on nuclear weapons, fears that a terrorist organization has brought a bomb across the Mexican border. While investigating, he finds himself facing roadblocks at every turn, forcing him not to trust anyone. Does someone in the government have inside knowledge? Then the unthinkable happens, and it appears to be only a matter of time before the U.S. collapses. Strieber knows how to create suspense, and he provides a too-realistic-for-comfort scenario that should land him on the talk-show circuit declaiming on terrorism. For thriller readers, though, the important thing to remember is that this novel is less a Vince Flynn–type action romp than it is a rant about the bureaucratic bunglings of government agencies amid the chaos of a terrorist threat, so steer readers accordingly. --Jeff Ayers
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; First Edition edition (February 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765322536
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765322531
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,589,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is looking more and more like a possible historical fact, its very scary how this book depicts what could be our near future. Excellent book no longer borderline fiction but rather possible near future truth...
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Suspense-filled thriller, full of twists and turns. Very compelling reading, but the parts echoing the single-minded, hate-filled point of view of the terrorists may be rather uncomfortable for some readers. The accuracy and plausibility is astounding; Strieber obviously did a tremendous amount of research in the writing of this novel. All in all, a good read.
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Format: Hardcover
Whitley Streiber's new novel, "Critical Mass," is more than a thriller, more than a spy story, more than science fiction.

It takes on the premise: what if terrorists DID nuke an American city and had devices in place to terminate Western civilization? What if America could counter extremists with an equally devastating weapon of reprisal?

The hero, Jim Deutsch, is equal parts McGyver, Jack Ryan, Indiana Jones, and Bourne. Add in Jim's love, a Moslem woman, Nabila, who works for American security. A cast of characters from the Pope to the American president to a host of foreign extremists completes the page-turning tension.

Streiber is at his best with the small details of horrifying death [the people] "tumbling toward the flame, in the dust, in the chaos," and "The wall exploded inward. . .burying the smoking chucks of . . .bodies in the fiery debris. So each soul started with a question, entered a moment of horror, then knew death."

Moreover, he uses the clarity of the theme of people in power, those who could prevent catastrophe, those who do not act. And he warns that this time is coming, that nuclear proliferation is a threat to life as we know it. As he did in "Nature's End," Streiber presents the facts of environmental and human disaster, using the evidence that is already in front of us, but personalizing it with characters we care about.

Although the narrator states, ". . .nuclear destruction remained something that was really beyond imagination, and its effects were far more terrible than its planners had anticipated," it is clear that Streiber is calling for action NOW to prevent disaster SOON.

This is a terrifying, realistic, absorbing book
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Format: Kindle Edition
I found this in the discount section of Barnes & Noble. I'd seen it there for quite a while and finally broke down and after making sure it was all third-person, past tense, I decided to give it a try.

As for the premise and the final outcome, I didn't so much have problem with that. It was the in-between that I had issues with.

Right off, when my (now) hometown of Las Vegas got nuked, I had issues because the author got his geography wrong. A guy over in Pahrump sees the mushroom cloud on the flat horizon. Uh, excuse me? What flat horizon? Did Mr. Streiber ever happen to consider the huge mountain range that sits between Pahrump and Las Vegas? Has he ever heard the expression, "Over the hump in Pahrump?" There's a good reason for that with a 11K foot Mount Charleston sitting between the two places. Also, in one point, he refers to the glow to the west. Well, Las Vegas is east of Pahrump, not west.

Okay, I can give him a few technical errors. Nobody gets everything right. However, now comes the bad guy chapters. I always dread the bad guy chapters in thrillers. If they're short and to the point, fine. However, when they drone on and on and go into excruciating detail, I can't wait for the chapter to end so we can get back to the action and story movement. Enough is enough.

The main protagonist was a bad dude, and the author makes a point of showing us and telling us this over and over again. The problem is that the protagonist has such little real-estate in the novel that he's like a minor character. There is so much page space dedicated to peripheral characters the actual story movement hardly gets anywhere.

Speaking of which, I didn't think the description of the bomb going off in that one place would ever end.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am big fan of Mr. Strieber but this story just does not hit its mark. The plot is topical and could have been exciting and suspenseful but the story seemed hurried and not really developed. Nor are the characters fleshed out and seem very typical and one diminsionable. In fact, some of the dialogue is quite corny and contrived. Fleshing out the characters and making the book somewhat longer would have helped. This is more of a "book to a movie" type of story. Wait for the paperback.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very scarey book. Although it was written some years ago it is extremely relevant to today. Whitley Streiber seems to be able to see into the future with his writing. It is fast paced and very hard to put down. I recommend it extremely strongly to anyone who is concerned about the current religious war that is fast approaching.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The subject of this book, the fictional account of a threat of nuclear annihilation from an extremist Muslim organization, is not generally what I would choose as reading material, however, as usual, Whitley has crafted yet another page turning thriller. It starts slowly, but the suspense builds and builds until you just can't put it down. A fantastic book with haunting descriptions of events which will be burned into my brain for time immemorial.
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