The Afghan

by Frederick Forsyth

One could repackage Frederick Forsyth's entire body of work and
reissue it under the title "The Way The World Works." His first
novel, THE DAY OF THE JACKAL, brought a (probably) fictitious event
into the real world, and he has continued to do so for the over 30
years since his writing career began. In addition to getting older,
he has gotten better, as evidenced by his latest offering, THE

Forsyth continues to write of the people to whom George Orwell
referred when he wrote "(w)e sleep safe in our beds because rough
men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would
do us harm." The harm here is part of the mystery that propels THE
AFGHAN. Specifically, a major terrorist plot is in the process of
being planned and executed by Islamic extremists. British and U.S.
intelligence have no idea what it is; all they know is that
something is in the works. The nature of the plot remains a
tantalizing puzzle for the reader until almost the very end. From
the standpoint of the British and American governments, there is
more concern that the plot be prevented than in actually
identifying it.

THE AFGHAN hangs its hat on a somewhat improbable premise --- the
substitution of a legendary, revered Afghani terrorist with a
retired, highly decorated British operative. Forsyth takes this
plot line and makes it plausible thanks to his minute attention to
detail and interjecting his characters into the real world playing
field of the War on Terror. The capable SAS agent, Michael Martin,
is living out his retirement by restoring a farmhouse outside of a
rural English village. Izmat Khan, the Afghani terrorist, is
languishing in isolation in a Gitmo prison cell. Forsyth goes to
great lengths to introduce both men to the readers --- as it
develops, they already know each other --- and to supply deep
background in their respective pasts. So while THE AFGHAN is
plot-driven, it doesn't leave the characters behind.

Forsyth goes into an extensive review of real world events during
the course of his narrative, so that at points the book becomes
less a work of fiction and more a real-world historical treatise.
His grasp of the topic is strong and firm, and is not a
three-second connection of dots from which he draws erroneous
conclusions. If you're accustomed to getting your world news and
analysis from the current crop of journalists who populate the
major networks, prepare to have your eyes opened by Forsyth's
unvarnished account of the events that have led to today's
troubles. And, as in the real world, errors are made, lives are
lost and plans go awry. Meanwhile, Martin finds himself walking a
dangerous tightrope, committed to immersing himself in a role in
which he must rely wholly upon his own wits and resources, even as
the unknown plot moves inexorably toward success.

Forsyth has long been a master of edge-of-the-seat writing, and
while his early narrative in THE AFGHAN occasionally drifts into
the merely interesting, the last half of the work is an all-out
race, particularly with respect to the final hundred pages.
Forsyth's familiarity with his subject matter additionally lends
immediacy to the proceedings, resulting in yet another winner.


Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 22, 2010

The Afghan
by Frederick Forsyth

  • Publication Date: August 7, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Signet
  • ISBN-10: 0451221834
  • ISBN-13: 9780451221834