Saturday, August 04, 2012

A Novel That Offers Food for Thought Regarding Middle East Policy: Review of "The Last Israelis" by Noah Beck

Noah Beck has written a fascinating apocalyptic tale that sees the destruction of Israel as the logical outcome of the current policies being promulgated in the Middle East, especially with regard to Iran's nuclear weapons program. As tensions in the Middle East come to a boiling point and approach Armageddon, the Israeli submarine, Dolphin, is sent out to sea and given orders to head towards Iran. During the Dolphin's more four weeks at sea, the world goes to hell in a hand basket. The Israeli Prime Minister lapses into a coma, the American President fails to respond to a final Israeli request to intervene in Iran before their nuclear capabilities are fully operational, and Israel comes under massive attack on all fronts. While the Dolphin makes its way to within target range of Iran, conflict rages above the surface and under the water.

Beck has done an excellent job in assembling a motley crew of sailors that represent every possible ethnic and religious expression of the Israeli melting pot. Their inherent mistrust of one another and their different world views make for lively action as the submarine loses contact with Naval Command and must decide whether or not to execute an order to launch nuclear warheads at Iranian targets.

My one regret with this ambitious work is that I wish that the author had fully trusted the action of the novel to make the political points he clearly wants to make. When the action moves the plot forward, the novel is engaging and well written. It is when the action slows to a crawl and the crew members engage in speechifying that the book gets snagged on the reef of the author's submerged political agenda. Beck clearly feels strongly about the danger that Israel may one day disappear if someone does not take a firmer stand against Iran. I would have preferred that he had stuck with "showing me" rather than "telling me" through extended conversation and contrived debates among the submarine crew

Having pointed out this foible, let me say that the overall impact of the story was powerful and very readable. Beck has something to say, and for the most part, he says it well. I look forward to his next works.

Let me add my observation that the reluctance on the part of some of the crew of the Dolphin to execute the launch order is a very plausible plot twist.  There have been many documented reports of crews trained to launch nuclear warheads have had difficulty with the enormity of their assignment when it comes time to turn the key and push the button.  This part of the plot adds a realistic and disturbing literary thermal layer of realism.



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