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Ministry of Bombs Kindle Edition
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And in many ways I was not disappointed. Lowhim stays true to his "gray hat" world-view, even in a genre not known for it. There was also the additional pull that much of the action takes place in a country I once visited as a tourist, and know I never will be able to again: the Yemen, or what the Romans once called "Arabia Felix," the happy part of Arabia because it was so green and fertile. One of the three principle characters, Ali, is a Yemeni. Lowhim depicts him as so very many of them are: fierce and proud, even though poor, and willing to die to defend his honor. Ali represents a people who were never (really) colonized, despite a few in-roads at Aden. The second principle character is the ironically named Justice, a CIA operative on the way up, he hopes, if his own reservations about what his Agency does - does not get in the way. And the third principle character is Dr. Noklar, not just any Pakistani, but the "father" of their atomic bomb.
Lowhim puts the three principles, and a reasonable supporting cast of characters of a collision course. The central issue is a hauntingly real one, certainly one that I am concerned about. With the "war on terror" seemingly endless, and with all too many American actions designed to create two new terrorists for every one America kills, sooner or later, some terrorist will have the motivation and wherewithal to set off an atomic bomb in an American city.
The author does nuance, and divided loyalties. Ali is concerned that all too many "on his team" are not trying to build something, anything, but only destroy. Justice is justly, as it were, motivated that there should never be another 9-11, yet has qualms that his Agency's actions are bound to ensure another one does. Haunting is Lowhim's portrayal of the Yemen today, where death can so arbitrarily fall from the sky, via drones, and there are no consequences or accountability. And the author depicts the American Ambassador to the Yemen as another "Ugly American," brash, bold, and on the make, just using the "war on terror" to promote his own personal agenda.
Still, I had some problems with the plausibility of the plot, at several junctures. Even in "action thrillers," do people really perform in that manner? A few too many implausible jumps in the action, and twists in motivation, coupled with an improbable geography. It was one of the most unlikely journeys to Nice, where an equally unlikely denouement occurs. Overall, 4-stars.
Lowhim’s development of Dr Naydar and Ali is remarkable. In particular his portrayal of their inner struggles. Each is in a world where there seems to be no room for a change The lines are black and white. Yet they each began to listen to their hearts and to open their eyes. Perhaps all is not as it seems and change is needed. Nelson gives us such a look into Ali’s heart, such a raw pain, such an awareness of a future denied and such transparency. However, I found Justice’s story to be weak and unrealistic. Who could get even be an agent with that agency as ignorant, ill at ease and without initiative as he was? Did we have to repeat his phone calls to his boss with background laughter repeatedly as if the agency itself was a joke? And the whole thing with the paintings? Not to be a spoiler but there was so much to Justice that could have been handled better.
Often with political, war type reading it is easy to get lost. At least for me. Not so here. We were going from one country to the other at the turn of the page, but did so fluidly. The plot flowed very well. Background information was developed in such a way it was difficult not to cheer for each character (okay, so I did.).
I had some apprehension over the political leaning and persuasive element this type book might present and frankly a few spots early on that I felt affirmed those. The only thing he seemed to be adamant about was American forces enjoying and laughing about killing innocents (children). If I saw that tone in future books by him I would see it as a problem. Other than that it was well rounded. Lowhim is dealing with a sensitive topic and he did well in showing strengths, weaknesses and struggles of each.
Lowhim impressed me with his writing skills, his ability to captivate the reader, the multi-faceted storyline, the main characters and his supporting characters. He also did something that is rare in a young writer. He caused me to think, to question, to wonder and to do a self-check. For that I am glad. May I never be too stuck in my on way of thinking, but to be willing to stand back, examine a situation and make a decision based on what is before me at that time. We have areas that are unchangeable; my faith is one of those. On those we stand firm. But so many areas are not and this is a good reminder to look beyond stereotypical attitudes and philosophy.
Great book! I am heading to the next one!! Join me?
NOTE: I was given an E-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.