THE SLEEPER features the return of Kurt Kurtovic, last seen in
Christopher Dickey's INNOCENT BLOOD. INNOCENT BLOOD is a novel of
catharsis and redemption; THE SLEEPER is tinged with vengeance and
betrayal. It begins with Kurtovic having obtained a separate if
uneasy peace in Westfield, Kansas with his wife and daughter. That
tranquility is shattered on the morning of September 11, 2001.
Kurtovic is approached by Griffin, a government man who brings to
mind both the best and worst of Kurtovic's past. Griffin would like
Kurtovic back in the world of his former colleagues in Al-Qaeda. He
wants Kurtovic, in Griffin's words, to "take out the bad guys." And
Kurtovic does just that, with a vengeance, in a world where, as
Kurtovic is told, "nothing is true and everything is
Following an incident of unspeakable carnage in Somalia, however,
Kurtovic finds himself taken prisoner by U.S. Forces and
incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay for some dark purpose. Griffin, who
is supposed to protect Kurtovic, is at once a part of and apart
from a devious plot that puts Kurtovic and his family in terrible
danger, a danger that leads to an apocalyptic ending and the
exacting of a rough but mysterious justice.
Dickey possesses extraordinary literary ability. He gets deep into
the crevices of Kurtovic's mind in a way that few of his
contemporaries can equal. It is accordingly all the more noticeable
when he takes two brief but totally unnecessary plot deviations in
order to somehow impute complicity in the terrorist attacks to
Bush. It does nothing for THE SLEEPER other than to keep a great
book from being even better.
I will readily admit that I approached THE SLEEPER with some
trepidation. Dickey writes regular essays for a website published
by a weekly newsmagazine that are uniformly interesting but too
often ruined for me by that faux gravamen too often
exhibited by those citizens of the United States who, for whatever
reason, choose to live abroad and have thus been granted the key to
enlightenment denied to the beetle-browed who remain behind in the
colonies. In light of the foregoing, one might be surprised to find
me wholeheartedly recommending THE SLEEPER.
Also to be noted, given that THE SLEEPER is the second book of an
intended trilogy, it will be interesting to see where Dickey goes
with this in the third and final volume.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011