Review

Critical Mass

by Whitley Strieber

The United States thought that what transpired on September 11,
2001, was the worst tragedy we ever could imagine. However, it is
possible that those events failed to awaken the U.S. government or
all the other major world powers, and complacency has once again
caused us to let our guard down. The result of this is the
possibility of a wide-scale attack that would dwarf September 11th
and bring the entire world to their knees. This very plausible and
frighteningly realistic terror is the core of Whitley
Strieber’s latest effort, CRITICAL MASS.

Nuclear interdiction expert Jim Deutsch seems to be
America’s last hope as he actively tracks a nuclear weapon
being snuck into the U.S. illegally across the Mexico-Texas border.
What he uncovers is merely the tip of the iceberg --- a conspiracy
of global proportion that threatens life as we know it. Deutsch
typically operates under deep cover and has ties to nearly every
agency attached to the U.S. government. He is a fearless patriot
who makes Jack Bauer look like a Boy Scout! Thankfully, his
ex-wife, Nabila, is of Muslim descent and herself connected to the
political underground --- making her a strong ally to have during a
national security crisis.

As Deutsch continues his independent investigation into the
smuggled nuclear weapon, he finds that the power behind this act is
an organization of unknown dimension that is embedded in the
American enforcement and intelligence communities. This puts him at
high risk, and he quickly realizes he is out there on his own
without a parachute or lifeline. A radical branch of Muslim
extremists appears to be the driving force of this global terrorist
threat with a leader labeling himself the Mahdi --- a holy soldier
with the sole mission of destroying all non-believers and bringing
about the “end of time.”

The telling event that transpires is the largest single
terrorist act ever perpetrated on U.S. soil. A nuclear bomb of
plutonium origin is detonated by plane above Las Vegas, leveling
the entire area and causing unprecedented destruction. Deutsch had
commandeered a small plane and pilot in an effort to find the
nuclear bomb but is too late to stop this heinous act. The whole
world is shaken, and global and religious leaders begin
communicating in hopes of devising a game plan to prevent further
destruction. A message comes from the Mahdi that demands all
non-Muslim countries and leaders renounce their faiths and claim
allegiance to Allah. This includes witnessing the President of the
United States performing the salah --- the five prayers of each day
--- for the entire world to see.

The President and his entire cabinet, warned that they cannot
leave the Washington, D.C. area, are sequestered there against
their will. Discussion is had over the most fearsome military
operation ever conceived. Over a 30-hour period, Operation Dream
Angel would deliver 1,750 W101 neutron bombs across all areas on
the planet controlled by Muslim fundamentalists --- in essence,
wiping them off the face of the earth along with millions of
innocent people. There is both agreement and dissent in the cabinet
about such an operation, and the President is at a crossroads.
Meanwhile, Deutsch continues his trek across the country to get to
the White House where he can offer his support and insight as a
firsthand expert into this particular brand of terrorism.

Fearing further destruction and unable to retaliate, the
majority of global leaders realize they must bow down to the
Mahdi’s demands. The President of the United States complies
with the renouncement request, and even the Pope and other
religious leaders agree to concede that there is only one God ---
the God of the Muslim people. Mosques are being destroyed around
the world, and anyone appearing to be Middle Eastern is persecuted
or killed. This is just the sort of panic the Mahdi had hoped for.
Another devastating hit is taken as a nuclear attack upon Rome and
Vatican City is perpetrated, destroying that entire area and
marking a direct blow into the heart of Catholicism. The Mahdi and
his followers continue their fight against those who have been
given the scripture but do not believe in Allah.

All seems hopeless as at least 16 major cities around the world
have been targeted for further attacks. But never count out Jim
Deutsch, who has found his ex-wife and made it safely to the White
House. Was the President’s bowing down on camera and
accepting Allah all a ploy? Is the entire Muslim nation truly
behind these attacks, or could it be a ruse by another global
nation or extremist faction of Muslims seeking to tip the balance
of power permanently? These issues are what Deutsch needs to
resolve if there is any chance of further attacks being prevented
--- particularly the weapon that is aimed directly at the White
House.

Whitley Strieber has taken an extremely plausible situation and
turned it into a novel that cuts to the core of everyone’s
daily security fears in the modern world in which we exist. The
fact that most countries in the world --- the U.S. included ---
have no continuity of a government plan in place in the event that
the “head is cut off” at the top leadership level is
truly frightening. CRITICAL MASS is supremely effective in how
uneasy it makes the reader feel once you realize just how
vulnerable we might be. Strieber has turned this fear into a
page-turner of a novel that hopefully will see its way to the big
screen. It would make for a heck of a movie!

Reviewed by Ray Palen on December 28, 2010

Critical Mass
by Whitley Strieber

  • Publication Date: December 29, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books
  • ISBN-10: 0765362473
  • ISBN-13: 9780765362476