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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Existential Military Thriller, July 19, 2012
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This review is from: The Last Israelis - an Apocalyptic, Military Thriller about an Israeli Submarine and a Nuclear Iran (Kindle Edition)
The Last Israelis is unlike any thriller I've read before, and I mean that in a (mostly) good way. Its basic setting and concept call to mind military thrillers like The Hunt for Red October, but Noah Beck approaches the storytelling craft in a unique way. Beck is less interested in penning intricate plot twists and pulse-pounding action scenes than he is in creating a plausible doomsday scenario that highlights the contemporary threat that Iran's nuclear ambitions pose to the State of Israel. This one is right out of the newspaper folks, and should be required reading for our world leaders.

Beck's interest in showcasing intellectual debate between his characters becomes evident early on, when the crew of the Dolphin is granted a brief shore leave to reunite with their families. He takes this opportunity to establish the back story for Captain Daniel Zion, his impotent deputy Yisrael, and other key members of the submarine's thirty-five-man crew. This stage-setting embues his characters with distinct personalities and motivations that later color the positions they take when the Dolphin loses contact with its command structure and must determine whether to unleash its arsenal of ten nuclear warheads on Iran.

The novel grabbed and held my interest because of the authenticity of the politics, the realistic description of the submariners' craft, and the thought-provoking quality of the existential debate that occurs among the crew. In particular, I found the arguments over the moral justification for targeting a civilian population with weapons of mass destruction to be nuanced and thorough.

But The Last Israelis interested me more in the vein of a compelling essay or punchy op-ed piece, than in the manner of a great novel. Beck has a tendency to tell rather than show, as many passages serve the single purpose of conveying information rather than moving the plot forward. He also tends to over-use flashbacks and lapse into lengthy dialogue that sounds more like an exchange between college professors than banter among seamen. As Beck becomes more comfortable with the craft of storytelling, I expect that he will find ways to influence the public debate on critical subjects in a novel that feels a little less like an essay.
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Location: McLean, VA United States

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