Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Shock And Awe", by David Isaak (Pan Books)

One billionaire and his quest to take the War on Terror to a whole new level

Atwater has hatched a crazy plan to fight terrorist fire with fire. Recruiting Carla Smukowski, a former special forces operative struggling to come to terms with her brother’s murder at the hands of Islamic terrorists, and minuteman Boyce Hammond, Atwater provides the financial backing needed to take the war to Islam’s doorstep. Together, they come up with a plan that takes control of the war out of the hands at the Pentagon and White House, and puts it into private hands. Turning a nightmare scenario on its head, Carla and Boyce’s team hijack a shipment of nuclear material with the intent of creating a radiological “dirty bomb” to be used to maximum psychological effect.

Unfortunately for Atwater, Boyce is also an undercover FBI agent, having spent three years infiltrating the Ethan Allen Brigade.

Isaak’s characters are compellingly flawed. Be it Carla’s alcoholism and near-fatalistic approach to her duties for Atwater, or Boyce’s not entirely gentlemanly appreciation of Earlene, the woman he has come to be with during his time undercover. These are not characters you’d find in a James Patterson novel, all of whom tend to be a little too clean, or Hollywood-polished.

Global locales and gritty action, Shock & Awe is a very modern political/global thriller (or “terrorist fiction” as the genre has come to be called). Isaak’s knowledge of the international energy world is obvious, but rather than delving too far into minutiae or boring detail, he manages to keep the pace of the story up, as well as avoiding many of the usual pitfalls that trouble many first-time authors (cliché, excessive exposition, and so forth).

With a good, sparse writing style, this novel will keep you up well into the night. Plenty of action, political insight and a host of complex characters you’ll care about, Shock & Awe is a compelling start from a new voice in thriller fiction.

For fans of: David Baldacci, Alex Berenson, Jack Henderson, Gregg Hurwitz, Stephen Leather


  1. Thanks--I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I appreciated the review!

  2. I can vouch for this review. SHOCK AND AWE is a shock-and-awesome read!