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Prayers for the Assassin    by Robert Ferrigno order for
Prayers for the Assassin
by Robert Ferrigno
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Welcome to the future. The year is now 2042, but a little more than a quarter of a century earlier, nuclear bombs were smuggled into and detonated in New York City, Washington, D.C., and - Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

In the aftermath of those devastating blasts, the FBI caught one of the conspirators responsible for what might be history's most horrific act of terrorism, and that captured conspirator quickly revealed the details behind the plot that resulted in the attack on the 19th of May in 2015. Soon the entire world was surprised to find out that Israel was behind the atrocity, and that country's violent duplicity quickly came to be known as the Zionist Betrayal (which became the pivot point of modern history, the axis on which the world shifted).

In the months and years that followed, the world - and more particularly, the United States - went through phenomenal political, social, and economic changes. America suffered through a brutal civil war after which most of the former USA became a moderate Islamic republic. However, many of the southeastern states - known then and now as the Bible Belt - broke away from the republic to form its own sovereign Christian nation which remains a threat to territories to the north and west; moreover, Nevada - for its own unique reasons - the unaligned new area of South Florida, and the Mormon Territories (formerly Utah) also retained their autonomous sovereignty (although surrounded by other territories of the Islamic republic).

Life now in the Islamic States of America somewhat (barely) resembles the good old days of the late 20th and early 21st centuries (with the Oscars and the Super-Bowl still popular though a bit different), yet there are important differences: The calls to prayer regularly reverberate everywhere in Americans' everyday life; women who indecently expose themselves (i.e., expose their ankles or commit other indiscretions) are routinely beaten by black robed clerics; fears of terrorist attacks (especially from the Bible Belt) dominate the collective consciousness of American citizens; economic progress has significantly stagnated, intellectual pursuits and scientific explorations are repressed, and social interactions are severely encumbered by fundamentalist religious doctrine. This is a not-so-brave new world in which the Muslim majority controls all facets of life, and the non-Muslim minorities (who cannot covertly emigrate to more tolerant zones of North America) are marginally tolerated (at best) and (more generally) openly vilified, ostracized, and constantly vulnerable to attacks and elimination.

It is in this environment that we are introduced to Rakkim Epps - a former elite Muslim warrior - and Rakkim's romantic interest, Sarah Dougan - a university historian (and the key to the novel's plot) who is on the verge of revealing a couple of very dangerous discoveries: First, it seems as though history may need to be reconsidered; in fact, the official version of the past seems to have been intentionally (and fraudulently) perpetrated on a frightened population, and there are powerful individuals in government (and especially in the sectarian world) who will do anything to prevent disclosure of Sarah's version of the facts. (Of course, to rewrite history invites chaos, with all its attendant pain and suffering, but Sarah believes there are things worse than chaos, and the denial of the truth is, in fact, worse.) Second, the world may be on the verge of a dangerous future - perhaps a reprise of the 5/19/15 attacks - and only Sarah (of course with Rakkim's quite capable help) can head off the potential for another disaster.

Robert Ferrigno has pulled out all the stops in this breath-taking vision of the future. Prayers for the Assassin overflows with exciting action and intriguing characters. More provocative than The Handmaid's Tale, more electrifying than Fatherland, and more frightening than 1984, this must-read (perfectly plotted and flawlessly written) novel will leave you wondering: 'My God, could something like this really happen?'

(The answer is simple: 'Yes, it could! Now, what are you going to do about it?')

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