The Last Days


Title:                      The Last Days

Author:                  Joel C. Rosenberg

Rosenberg, Joel C. (2003). The Last Days. New York: Forge

Subjects

Date Updated:  March 9, 2013

It’s the near future. Osama bin Laden is dead; so are Saddam Hussein and his sons. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have been wiped out. Iraq is in ruins, and it’s up to Jon Bennett, the U.S. president’s senior advisor, to find a way to rebuild it. Central to this effort is a “massive and spectacular tract of oil and natural gas” discovered in the Mediterranean, a source of wealth that could bring peace to the Middle East. But will 81-year-old Yassar Arafat let peace reign? That becomes a moot point when Arafat is assassinated by a suicide bomber, and the hero, Bennett, is suddenly all that stands between peace and global destruction.

Rosenberg’s sequel to the bestselling The Last Jihad (2002) is a near-clone of its predecessor: an action-packed Clancy-esque political thriller with paper-thin characters. Presidential envoy Jon Bennett returns as the protagonist, along with his bodyguard and love interest, Erin McCoy, an “Uzi-toting, Arabic-speaking CIA supermodel.” Their efforts to broker a Middle East peace, whose centerpiece is a fortuitously discovered deep oil reserve with the potential to make every Israeli and Palestinian wealthy, are literally blown to pieces when a suicide bomber claims the life of the U.S. secretary of state and Yasser Arafat himself.

The surviving members of the American delegation, along with the Palestinian and Israeli entrepreneurs behind the oil-drilling venture, are scrambling frantically to escape from the Gaza Strip when civil war breaks out among the factions grappling to succeed Arafat as leader. Meanwhile, the sinister forces behind the attack seek to wreak further havoc by dispatching teams of terrorists to America while provoking the Israeli government to trigger a wider conflagration by invading the West Bank and Gaza. The author singularly fails to suspend readers’ disbelief with his baffling decision to set the action in the year 2010 while simultaneously placing real-life events from 2003 such as the invasion of Iraq and the appointment of Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) as Palestinian prime minister seven years in the future. His efforts to make the book a relevant, “ripped-from-the-headlines” tale are already dated-the real Abu Mazen resigned his post-and the fantasy solution to the intractable political conflict by a deus ex machina will strike many readers as silly.

Like the first Jon Bennett novel, The Last Jihad (2002), this one is a timely tale of political intrigue and international terrorism. That’s the good thing. The bad thing is that (also like its predecessor) the novel features stilted dialogue, crudely drawn characters, and a generally clunky narrative style. The author is clearly an expert in international politics, but his skills as a storyteller have yet to be revealed.

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