Isle writer hits hard with novel spanning 30 years
In his latest thriller, “Assassins,” prolific Molokai resident Mike Bond constructs an epic spy story following one man’s experience with 30 years of war and terrorism in the Middle East.
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In his latest thriller, “Assassins,” prolific Molokai resident Mike Bond constructs an epic spy story following one man’s experience with 30 years of war and terrorism in the Middle East and its impacts on the Western world. The action moves from Baghdad in the 1980s to the World Trade Center and other attacks on 9/11 to the Paris bombings in 2015.
Fans and readers of Bond’s previous novels (“Killing Maine,” 2015; “Saving Paradise,” 2013) can expect the same execution of his talent for scene setting. Told in seven parts, the book is separated into various stages (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Paris, Desert Storm, Baghdad, and ISIS/IS) in the formation and expansion of terrorism.
Jack, no last name, is a U.S. operative with knack for combat and skills that make him an asset in the Middle East. Once a teacher in a small Afghan village, Jack returns with an elite team of special forces to help train and arm the mujahedeen to fight the Soviets. He ends up as a witness to or participant in nearly every major conflict in the region, losing family, friends and comrades along the way. As his losses mount, he is set on exterminating as many extremists as possible and becomes increasingly unhappy with the politics and bureaucracy of the “Home Office.”
Despite the tragedies and disillusion, Jack manages to hold on to his sense of justice, loyalty and duty. “If we want to change the Muslim world, take some of the billions we’d spend on this war — trillions probably — and build clinics and schools and libraries and all the other things civilization means,” he says.
Bond often writes with a staccato beat, in sentence fragments with the effect of bullet fire. His dialogue is sharp and his description of combat is tactical and detached, professional as a soldier’s debriefing. Yet this terseness is rife with tension and feeling.
The contrasting perspectives provided by a strong supporting cast is where this book really shines: a French doctor and her Soviet lover; a corrupt Afghan warlord named Wahid al-din and his peaceful brother Ahmad; a tough British reporter with a soft side; and a crew of foul-mouthed special ops soldiers — all scorched by the skirmishes of a war that blurs the lines of good and evil.
If you like your fiction with conviction, “Assassins” will not disappoint, though sometimes it bogs down a bit. Jack’s reflections about injustice and humanity come off as moralistic, and the story gets murky with political speculation and international conspiracy plots.
Overall, though, Bond’s writing is intelligent and doesn’t shy away from controversy, posing intriguing scenarios that force the reader to ponder some troubling questions about past and present state of affairs in the Middle East.
In real life, of course, the conflicts between organizations such as ISIS/IS and al-Qaida and the West are convoluted and complicated, existing long before and beyond the book’s 30-year time frame. But 30 years is plenty for a novel, and Bond manages to turn the chaos of war into a cohesive and compelling story of political intrigue, religious fanaticism, love, brotherhood and the ultimate pursuit of peace.
Thomas Hardy once said, “War makes rattling good history; but Peace is poor reading.” The jury’s still out as to what historians will make of the wars Bond covers, but “Assassins” makes good reading.
Mike Bond will read from “Assassins” at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Authors Pavilion Mauka of the Hawaii Book & Music Festival.