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Strange Fire: A Novel Hardcover – May 1, 2001

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393049388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393049381
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,640,168 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Prescient, more or less it doesn't take a prophet to forecast cyclical violence in the Middle East Bukiet's witty, engrossing novel anticipates the current resurgence of Palestinian-Israeli conflict, chronicling the derailment of the peace process after a conservative victory in the Knesset. Like an Israeli All the Kings Men recast as a thriller, the tale is told by a political aide Nathan Kazakov, a blind ex-POW, Russian immigrant, former poet, Lebanon invasion veteran, semicloseted homosexual and now speechwriter to Simon ben Levi, the charismatic right-wing prime minister (more in the mold of Benjamin Netanyahu than Ariel Sharon). Making an obvious reference to Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, the novel opens with a gun shot: a Jewish settler fires the pistol, and it is Nathan who gets a bullet in the ear. This brush with death heightens Nathan's disenchantment with Simon's politics, impelling his investigation into the assassin's real target and prompting him to search for Simon's estranged son, the enigmatic archeologist Gabriel. Bukiet (Signs and Wonders) keeps a steady level of suspense simply by capitalizing on Nathan's blindness. After encounters with colorful characters like Gita Mamoun, a philanthropic female Palestinian arms mogul and a fanatical rabbi called Moshe X, Nathan discovers a labyrinthine conspiracy code-named Strange Fire, which somehow involves Gabriel. In a region as convoluted as the Middle East, conspiracies are as central as ordinary politics, and it's almost a shame when all is finally revealed after the fascinating deployment of so many Red Sea herrings. (May)Forecast: Call this a hopped-up literary novel or an offbeat thriller either way, it defies genre labels. Mainstream thriller readers probably won't bite, but fans of clever, eccentric amateur detectives and those who follow Israeli news closely (the book will be promoted in Jewish publications) will appreciate the hero's wiles. An author tour to New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., should help those readers find the book.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Bukiet's black and biting satirical fiction (After [1996] and Signs and Wonders [1999]) has been well received, but this could be his breakthrough book--a smart, crisp, political page-turner. Blind, gay Russian emigre Nathan Kazakov, speechwriter for the hawkish, heartless Israeli prime minister Simon ben Levi, loses some of his remaining senses when a bullet, presumably meant for his boss, takes off his left ear. Motivated to learn the true target of the attempted assassination, Kazakov--with his marvelously honed sense of smell and the help of his doctor--is soon mired in a quest to uncover operation Strange Fire and its connection to the prime minister's dovish archaeologist son Gabriel. (The answer is not to be found, however, in the file stolen from the prime minister and labeled SF, which turns out to stand for--what else?--science fiction.) Bukiet hasn't lost his bite, with his succinct observations about the Middle East and what people will do for power, and there is tough stuff here (torture and homosexual rape) along with the humor. The protagonist is one of the most unlikely in modern fiction--but this book is a stunner. Michele Leber
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Bukiet writes well about blindness, conveying a keen sense of his protagonists' reliance upon others and his other senses in order to stay alive. This could have been worked well into a parable about the Middle East-- how the religious ecosystem, with one holy place on top of another, demands a forever-uncertain reliance on others. This seems to have been completely ignored, however, in favor of a roller-coaster political thriller. It was an enjoyable book, but one that a) only revealed a superficial understanding of the religious depths of conflict in the Middle East and often resorted to caraciatures rather than true examination and b) seemed to dumb itself down to find a more common-ground audience.
Bukiet is a very good writer and is capable of more.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By "royright" on August 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Melvin Bukeit is a talented writer, no questions on that score. In "Strange Fire" what bothered me was Bukiet's cavalier attitude towards his locale: the mideast. His agility and cleverness with languge miss the beat here. He's not a writer who creates caring toward his bizarre (in good and bad sense) characters, nor about their situations. I think he needs to amplify his ability with words with heart. That is just one man's honest opinion. Because, without heart and soul, for lack of better words, the plot isn't intimately gripping.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M.A. on June 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
So many books that are out there contain the same plot over and over again. It was refreshing to come across a book with an unusual protagonist and an original plot. The writing was also quite good. My only complaint is that the book seemed to go downhill a bit towards the end. There's a rape scene which just doesn't make any sense, and we lose our compassion for what had been a sympathetic character. Finally, the end (you notice that I didn't give away any plot points at all) boils down to a hackneyed action sequence with the hero saving the day.
All in all, however, it was nice to read a book that didn't fit the usual mode.
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