Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Apostle by Brad Thor

In hospitals, patients in anaphylactic shock are given injections of adrenaline. They could be handed a Brad Thor novel to get the same affect. The Apostle is one adrenaline-packed rush of excitement.

In the first few pages, American doctor Julia Gallo is kidnapped by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and the terms of her ransom are to hand over the recently captured Mustafa Khan, an al-Qaeda kingpin. The initial excitement of the book quickly evaporates into some of Thor’s jadedness. I understand that he was a member of Department of Homeland Security so he apparently knows what he’s talking about when he mentions the decline of intelligence at the CIA. But he pigeon-holes the entire American public, saying they “slept soundly in their beds at night believing their country had countless James Bonds around the world infiltrating terrorist networks and rogue regimes in order to keep them safe”. In the next paragraph, he states “As long as Americans could have their McDonald’s drive-throughs, listen to their iPods, and watch American Idol, they didn’t seem to care how negligently the nation’s national security apparatus was being run”.

I think most Americans believe in GI-Joe, the countless men and women in uniform fighting for our rights, rather than James Bond. If Americans were in the know as Thor is, I think they would definitely care about their national security apparatus. This is the stuff we don’t know about. If we did, yes, we probably would “be marching on D.C., with torches and pitchforks”.

Despite this quick and gloomy detour, the action picks back up as Scot Harvath is sent to Afghanistan, with no help from the U.S., to break into the prison and free Khan to trade for Gallo. Thor inserts a lot of information about the Afghan culture and the various high-tech gadgetry and weaponry used by international special forces to the point that at times The Apostle read like a cross between a travel guide and an operations manual.

Again, this only temporarily bogged down the story and it picks up steam. While Harvath is trying to extract Khan and rescue Gallo, there is a secondary story occurring back in the states. A Secret Service agent has overheard a private conversation between the newly elected president Robert Alden and Stephanie Gallo, mother of the kidnappee, media mogul and the money behind the president’s successful campaign bid. Gallo threatens to expose Alden’s involvement in a fatality accident that cost the life of a White House staffer and a family of four.

With only this information to go on, Elise Campbell decides to find out what happened that night. If the president was involved in the accident, Elise wants to know. She steps on a lot of toes in her search for the truth. It’s an interesting side story, but it pales in comparison to Harvath’s mission.

Faced with al-Qaeda at almost every turn and dealing with new developments in his mission, Harvath and his team manage to dog al-Qaeda’s footsteps, nearly costing their lives to complete their operation. Can they rescue Gallo without setting Khan free to continue his reign of terror? The Apostle is a nail-biter to the end.

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