The Shell Game

shellgameThe Shell Game
by Steve Alton
2009 / 488p.
rating:  A- / dystopian fiction

I read this on the recommendation of my son-shine, Isaac.   He warned me that it was definitely 9/11 conspiracy-theory type stuff,   but said he enjoyed it tremendously.  He tends to like action-packed page-turners with an element of suspense.

Yup- it’s decidedly based on  various  9/11 conspiracy theories from the opening  “Personal Message from the Author” all the way to the “Fact or Fiction” end section.   I don’t know if I really believe even those because the book is fiction and Steve Alten is a writer of a series of fantasy suspense books.

But the “Personal Message”  heightens both the believability and the suspense.   This is a second edition though, copyright 2009 so an update from the original 2008 publication might have been in order – like Obama’s win in 2008.  Even so,  the main action starts in 2011 so almost all of the plot is conjecture and fiction.

Now for the good news.  I enjoyed it.  (g)   The basic frame action is that a Neocon/oil company conspiracy to bomb a US city and making it look like it was done by terrorists – by recruiting terrorists.  The reaction to a bombing would be that  the US  wages war on Saudi Arabia (chief oil supplier) in order to get control of the limited and dwindling reserves.  (One issue is the “Neocons” were never really defined – only an example given in the Message from Author section –The Project for the New American Century – a global oriented faction of the Neocons.)

The threads involved in this overarching plot are many – there is the good-guy,  Ace Futrell who wants to bring this all to light by investigating the amount of the reserves.   This is thanks to a message left by his dying wife,  Kellie,  a former National Security Advisor/CIA agent who changed sides.    There is a thread involving two Iranian wanna-be terrorists who are more than willing to plant the bombs (suitcase nukes) which a US based Chinese-Japanese scientist with a grudge is willing to build for them –  all under the direction fo some highly placed oil industry agents and political neocons.  There is a thread involving an FBI agent chasing his own Director.  These and more all come together in the end.

And  thematic threads abound.  First and foremost I suppose would be the world’s increasing dependence on oil,  another one on how money and capitalism rule the world and will kill to maintain power.    The words of various celebrities, the Bible,   news articles,  web-site essays and so on are used between chapters to reinforce those themes.    Each one is intended to touch a certain audience – John Lenon, JFK,  Revelations,   AP news articles.   These quotes are not always accurate –  check your sources.

Much of the background for the  book is based on the 9/11 Truthout information.  Much of it is based on Mike Ruppert’s book,   Crossing the Rubicon.  Some of the sources are meaningless (AP Wireservice? –  “classified”?  )  But the book is FICTION!

And as futuristic dystopian fiction it’s pretty good.   Alten knows how to build the suspense juggling multiple characters and threads and without unnecessary foreshadowing.  His characters are well enough developed for a thriller-type book.  The future scenario was interesting – and the book was definitely original and creative.

Bottom line –  this is  basically a spin on the 9/11 conspiracy ideas infused with some older conspiracy theories as well as apocalyptic tones from Revelations projected into a “next time” scenario.    That “next time”  in the book has passed but that’s kind of irrelevant.

A large portion of this book is a history lesson,  some parts on the level, verifiable via Wikipedia and other main stream sources – Saudi Arabian history,  Gulf War I, etc.  Other historical sections are from the point of view of the conspiracy theorists,  some is invented and stuck in there.  Quite a lot of that is easily verifiable if you’re interested.

I’m not going to argue that scenario – I have no idea.  I’m enjoyed the book in large part because I tend to enjoy dystopian fiction and this is pretty good example of that.

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