Joel C. Rosenberg is back with another stellar novel that explores the current international political climate with stunning accuracy, leaving the reader to wonder just how close to non-fiction the story might become over the next few years. Aleksandr Ivanovich Luganov is the prime minister of Russia in 1999 when numerous apartment bombs have been exploding across Moscow. With an ailing president, Luganov assumes the role and chooses Oleg Kraskin to be one of his senior aides. Kraskin, shocked by this, is honoured and admits in the early narrative to be dating Luganov’s daughter. He hopes to marry her in short order and broaches the subject with Luganov in the early chapters. Working with Luganov, Kraskin sees his boss assume the role of President of the Russian Federation with hopes of putting Mother Russia back in her place of prominence. Across the globe, young Marcus Ryker is living in Colorado and hoping to make a name for himself. When he witnesses the attacks on September 11, 2001, he sees a chance to serve the United States in its military efforts. A courageous mission sees him almost lose his life and he decides to find new (and safer?) ways to serve. With a wife and a young son, Ryker joins the Secret Service, hoping to find his niche. While Ryker is rising the ranks and protecting significant political players, Kraskin is back in Russia and watching President Luganov begin a game of political chess as he seeks to reclaim some of the old Soviet territories, with an eye on Ukraine and some of the other breakaway republics. Kraskin becomes leery of his father-in-law, particularly when even those closest to him seem expendable. A devastating crime in Washington forces Marcus Ryker to rethink his future, and pushes him to a crisis of faith, if only for a time. Ryker has much to offer, but is rudderless and drifting around in a mental fog. After devising a plan to strike three NATO allies and keep the Americans in the dark, Kraskin can no longer watch Luganov flex his political muscle. With the Russians prepared to begin their military attacks and armed with significant nuclear weapons, Kraskin must make a decision. Ryker is offered an interesting job that sees him use some of his past experiences, though no longer formally employed by the American Government. There, Ryker faces a decision could not only affect his future, but that of the entire US Administration. Can either man risk everything to save their respective countries from a nuclear End of Days that not even the Book of Revelation could have predicted? Rosenberg delivers a brilliant piece that fans of his novels will surely enjoy. As always, new fans will likely flock to this book, which may foretell an interesting next round in geo-political manoeuvres.
I have long enjoyed Rosenberg’s novels, not only for their content, but also because they have been close to spot-on with their predictions. He understands all the actors and the political temperatures, putting it all into a digestible novel for those who love stories ripped from the headlines. Here, Rosenberg provides what most will see as a veiled story of the rise of Putin in Russia, though there are enough vague descriptors to leave the reader some leeway in their interpretation. Ruling the country with an iron fist, Aleksandr Ivanovich Luganov proves to be not only a new Russian Czar, but also one who is prepared to poke the hornet’s nest in hopes of pushing the world to a new war. And while his predecessors may not have been ready to push the red button, Rosenberg creates this czar as happy to do whatever it takes, nuclear obliteration or not. Kraskin is an interesting character as well, though his timidity seems to work only at certain times. There is surely much to this man who tries to juggle his personal sentiments with the knowledge that his father-in-law is becoming a dictator as ruthless as Stalin. Trying to do what he feels is right may come at the ultimate cost, though Kraskin may be ready to lose it all, including his family, to save Russia. With both strong parallels and sharp contrasts, Marcus Ryker is the third central character in the novel. As Rosenberg shows throughout, Ryker grew into himself through a number of key life moments, all of which shaped the man he became. Like Kraskin, the reader is able to see Ryker’s development over the years through to the tumultuous climax of the novel. Personal loss and extreme emotional strain met Ryker head-on, though he never shied away from bearing it all in an effort to bring justice to a world riddled with disparity. The story is not only on point, but Rosenberg’s writing helps pull the reader into the centre; as though they are in the middle of each meeting, participating in every dialogue, and able to feel each sentiment the characters exude. Politically powerful, the ideological divide is clearly on offer, as is the attempt by Luganov to resurrect the Mother Russia persona in his own image, much as is being done currently within the Kremlin. Rosenberg is a staunch conservative and admits as much, but even he could not create a POTUS that would align with the Russian Czar and for that I am eternally grateful. We need some degree of fiction and this was surely a portion of the novel that does not parallel the current political situation. Rosenberg’s writing is some of the best I have read in the genre, though some readers will want fair warning that he also pushes a strong Christian theme throughout. Prayers, reference to Scripture, and even the occasional crisis of faith (whereby the character must turn to God and Jesus to overcome something). While I prefer to steer clear of this, Rosenberg has toned things down and no longer inculcates us heathen readers with seeing the Light as we try to enjoy a political thriller. Many of Rosenberg’s predictions in past series have come true, alarmingly not long after a book is released. If the same can be said of this piece, the world had best be ready for quite the showdown. Then again, should the US attack, who’ll be there to troll social media and corrupt another American election?!
Kudos, Mr. Rosenberg, for your thorough analysis and poignant arguments on this subject. I will recommend it to any and all who love a well-crafted political thriller, and hope your other series tempt them as well.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons