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Particularly when reviewing a thriller--one with cover blurbs by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Steve Forbes no less--one would like to avoid cliches, such as: "Torn from today's headlines!" But how do you manage that when, while you are reading the scene in this novel where two B-2's are sent to Baghdad on an emergency bombing run, the news is reporting that a B-1 bomber was diverted to Baghdad on an emergency run targeted at Saddam Hussein and his sons? Joel C. Rosenberg starts his story with an attempted assassination of the American President, via a Gulfstream IV on a kamikaze mission, carries on into a buildup to war with Iraq, and mixes in an attempt to settle the Palestinian/Israeli dispute. The plot is obviously topical, the pace brisk, and--here's how he got the big names on the dust jacket--the politics are distinctly conservative.

This last makes the book doubly timely, and may be part of a trend. There's nothing unusual about a thriller having rather conservative themes--the genre requires good guys and bad guys, after all, and, with very rare exceptions, tends to glorify some British or American hero and the nation and values he's defending. Even in the spy novels of the most anti-Western of authors, John LeCarre, we end up rooting for George Smiley, not his Soviet opponents. No, what gives Mr. Rosenberg's work an added zest is that the surrounding politics, the characters' motivations, and the lessons taught are all infused with a conservative sensibility in the same way that a John Irving novel reflects the left-wing sentiments of the author. In this, The Last Jihad calls to mind Stephen L. Carter's recent bestseller, The Emperor of Ocean Park and raises the question of whether publishers have taken note of the dominance of the Nonfiction Bestseller list by conservatives, and of the Fiction list by the Left Behind series, and decided to make a more conscious effort to market novels to an obviously book-happy crowd. If that is the case, Mr. Rosenberg was an excellent choice. Having written essays for World Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, National Review, and Policy Review, he was already wired into the right (or Right) circles and his book was practically guaranteed to generate good buzz.

Now, there's no need for anyone to be put off by this; the politics are noticeable, but they aren't intrusive. It's more a matter where the extended portions of dialogue tend to present the world from a conservative perspective. Thus, in an explanation of how a character who was the head of the Mossad predicted that Saddam would invade Kuwait, while America's intelligence agencies assured that he would not, the difference is presented matter-of-factly as the respective understandings of evil:
[T]he CIA and FBI and definitely the guys at State don't properly anticipate horrible, catastrophic events because we don't really believe in the presence of evil, the presence of a dark and wicked and nefarious spiritual dimension that drives some men to do the unthinkable.
Just try to imagine a John LeCarre, or any of the other Leftist authors who've been protesting the war with Iraq, penning that assessment, that Saddam is evil. Such is the difference--sometimes subtle, sometimes not--that the political orientation of the author can make.

Of course, an author's politics don't matter at all unless the book is worth reading, and this one definitely is. Events have caught up to it a bit, but it remains pertinent, exciting, and a potential harbinger of things to come.


Grade: (A-)


See also:

Joel Rosenberg Links:

    -BOOK SITE Last Jihad
    -ESSAY: Private Viewing of 'The Passion of Christ' (Joel C. Rosenberg, Nov. 3, 2003, NewsMax)
    -ESSAY: The multi-million dollar black conservative professor (Joel C. Rosenberg, Jan. 10, 2002, Jewish World Review)
   -ESSAY: What to watch for in a post-Saddam Iraq (Joel C. Rosenberg, 4/19/03, World)
   -ESSAY: Cheney cancels trip abroad in order to help oversee Iraqi war (Joel C. Rosenberg, 4/12/03, World)
   -ESSAY: Hastert steps up fundraising efforts (Joel C. Rosenberg, 4/12/03, World)
   -ESSAY: Kerry leads among Democrat candidates (Joel C. Rosenberg, 4/12/03, World)
   -ESSAY: Tax cuts in trouble (Joel C. Rosenberg, 4/12/03, World)
   -ESSAY: Embedded truth (Joel C. Rosenberg, 4/05/03, World)
   -ESSAY: Ashcroft bulks up anti-terror forces (Joel C. Rosenberg, 4/05/03, World)
   -ESSAY: Democrats hammer Bush (Joel C. Rosenberg, 3/29/03, World)
   -ESSAY: Bush's faith in Jesus draws attention (Joel C. Rosenberg, 3/22/03, World)
   -ESSAY: Comments on Moran's comments (Joel C. Rosenberg, 3/22/03, World) -ESSAY: Carville Haunting: Panic time for Dems. (Joel C. Rosenberg, 10/31/00, National Review) -ESSAY: Formula 404: The coming Bush landslide. (Joel C. Rosenberg, 10/23/00, National Review)
    -PROFILE: Reality Fiction: A bestseller with his very first novel, author Joel C. Rosenberg is hoping with The Last DaysÑand its distinctive blend of fact and fiction, along with an unapologetic Christian worldviewÑthat lightning can strike twice (Joel Belz, 10/25/03, World)
    -PROFILE: Heroes, villains, soldiers, spies: It's too early to tell, but Joel C. Rosenberg's bestselling novel may be part of a trend: successful Christian cultural products that go mainstream without losing their salt (Marvin Olasky, 12/21/02, World)
    -INTERVIEW: A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY: An interview with Joel C. Rosenberg (World, 12/21/02)
    -REVIEW: of The Last Jihad by Joel C. Rosenberg (Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post )
    -REVIEW: of Last Jihad (Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review)
    -REVIEW: of Last Jihad (David Limbaugh)
    -REVIEW: of Last Jihad (

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