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The Coming Storm


The Coming Storm

James Rollins has a blurb that stands out on the front cover of Mark Alpert's latest thriller, THE COMING STORM: "Terrifyingly plausible... Read this now --- before it's literally too late." Ironically, the last two books I have read for review are Rollins' CRUCIBLE, which depicts an end-of-the-world scenario based on the emergence of artificial intelligence that will eventually eradicate all of mankind, and this one, which shows a very near future that predicts what the current political warfare going on inside the United States could lead to --- and it also is not a pretty prediction.

Set in New York City in the year 2023, THE COMING STORM places readers inside a city in turmoil and operating under severe martial law to quell the raging civil war that has divided the political landscape since the current Republican regime took over the presidency. If you think you are reading mere fiction, then go ahead and enjoy it for its page-turning entertainment value. However, if you see through the prose to the warning cry for help to which this novel is alluding, then you may very well be holding a nightmare in your hands that lives up to what Rollins professes in his blurb.

"Read [THE COMING STORM] at your own risk, and be prepared to have its message seep into your psyche and make for several unsettling nights of sleep."

It begins with an American citizen of Middle Eastern Muslim descent, Dr. Jenna Khan. She is a genetic scientist who played a pivotal role in helping to produce the gene-sequencing drug allowing for the creation of a breed of super-soldiers who eventually would be at the beck and call of the current political regime. The time has come to erase all traces of her involvement, and she is now the hunted inside a New York City that has become a fully locked-down war zone. The President has called for the Federal Service Unit (FSU) --- a group made up of the genetically enhanced super-soldiers who Jenna helped create --- to take control of the state, city and local police forces, and they are quick to weed out anyone with a contrary opinion or political view. This is all enacted by way of the Supreme Court upholding the Federal Service Act that gave the FSU immunity.

Jenna is able to escape from Coney Island, Brooklyn, although her father Hamid and quadriplegic brother Raza are taken captive. Super Storm Zelda recently did tremendous damage to the Eastern Seaboard, and the Coney Island beachfront is wracked by devastating waves that have destroyed and eroded most of the surrounding territory. She runs into a huge African-American man, Derek Powell, who pulls her to safety and guides her through this landscape. Derek was once one of the genetically enhanced super-soldiers and a former colleague of the current leader of the local FSU, a sadistic man named Frazier. He still possesses powers that have allowed him to survive, but the FSU continues to hunt for people like him and Jenna with both ground patrol and air support in the form of a fleet of Black Hawk helicopters.

Along the way, Derek passes Jenna over to the leader of a local Hispanic street gang, the Latin Kings, as he knows he must take on the FSU alone and needs to ensure that Jenna is among people who can protect her. The head of the Latin Kings is Hector Torres, a young man who instantly has Jenna's back. Meanwhile, the turmoil taking place within NYC has boiled over, and a skirmish outside and inside the Mayor's residence at Gracie Mansion ends with several people dead, including the Mayor, the visiting Vice President and dozens of anti-government protestors.

This does not sit well with the President, who is suffering from a life-threatening illness and now slowly transferring control of the government to his power-hungry son-in-law. There is an epic scene set within Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. The President is speaking to a mostly friendly and supportive crowd of individuals donning red Keep America Great hats and t-shirts. Without naming names, Alpert's depiction of this President and his cabinet is eerily similar to the current government. Having grown up in Queens, a mere walk to what was then Shea Stadium, it really hit home for me as I read this stand-out passage.

All roads lead to the inevitable confrontation between Jenna Khan and the government-supported FSU. This is a battle that will include a reunion with her imprisoned family, as well as her ex-boyfriend, a genetic scientist who may be the key to bringing down the FSU from the inside out. THE COMING STORM could have been labeled a horror novel as its portrayal of the near future is not that far off from what we can see on our TVs, in the news and on social media every day. Read it at your own risk, and be prepared to have its message seep into your psyche and make for several unsettling nights of sleep.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on January 25, 2019

The Coming Storm
by Mark Alpert