ROTTEN GODS - Greg Barron
There's something about the combination of a big threat thriller and fundamentalist based threats that makes me twitch badly. ROTTEN GODS is therefore a book that I stupidly put aside for a tad too long.
There is, however, something particularly compelling about the idea that a humanitarian man, a decent person, could be pushed to take extreme action in the face of international disregard for the economic and ecological meltdown happening everywhere around us. The idea that he would form an alliance with a group that seems to have similar concerns, although much more extreme methods, is also not that unlikely. The possibility of taking the leaders of most of the world government's hostage, and turn the security of their location against them wasn't that tricky to accept. In fact, there were some quite chilling, and rather discomforting aspects to much of the action in ROTTEN GODS.
But of course, it's a thriller, so there are some aspects that may not be quite so believable - in this case the way that lowly intelligence officer Marika Hartmann could head off on a disputed and somewhat unlikely pursuit in the middle of a major crisis, and then basically run her own show, on the ground in Somalia. The way that she managed to just not get blown away stretched credibility a few times, until, at some stage it really didn't matter how unlikely her situation was, you kind of ended up barracking a lot for her anyway.
There's a real bravery in the way that ROTTEN GODS unfolds - mostly because of the nature of the subject's that Barron's willing to tackle. There's a none too subtle political message at the core of this book that's going to get up some reader's noses, but really, what's wrong with a thriller that makes you uncomfortable or makes you think a bit. My only complaint is that possibly the book is a bit too long. There were also some plot-lines (such as the interference with tunnel digging) that just seemed to disappear in the run up to the conclusion, whilst other characters seemed to suddenly get chucked into the mix to be the hero of the day. A couple of these things did unbalance what was, in the main, a very thought-provoking and discomforting (in a good way) modern day thriller.
The near future. Climate change is causing havoc in coastal areas and the world is in economic and ecological crisis. World leaders gather at a billion-dollar conference centre in Dubai, determined to make the decisions necessary to bring society back from the brink.
Explosives are smuggled into the centre. Doctor Ali Khalid Abukar, a former humanitarian worker pushed into extremism, holds the trigger. He and his 'colleagues' give selected governments seven days to comply with a series of demands or the centre will be obliterated. Certain heads of state are branded 'war criminals', and singled out for trial and execution, one by one.
Australian-born intelligence officer Marika Hartmann parachutes into Somalia in an attempt to track down Dr Abukar's wife, Sufia, who may hold the key to disarming the terrorists. An ambitious warlord, however, stands in her way at every turn. British diplomat Isabella Thompson, forced to betray her country after the kidnap of her two daughters, helps the extremists hijack of the conference centre. She faces charges of treason unless she can redeem herself. Her airline pilot husband, Simon, embarks on a dangerous quest to rescue the girls.
For all the characters, it's a race against the clock as they hurtle towards the seven-day deadline set by the terrorists and certain death for all the hostages in Dubai.
As ROTTEN GODS builds towards a shattering climax, its characters are forced to examine their consciences and motives; their faith and beliefs. Each has cause to wonder just who is right and wrong in this epic struggle set in a world that might soon become more fact than fiction.