The Last Days

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The time is the near-future. Senior White House advisor Jon Bennett arrives at the Gaza Strip headquarters of Yasser Arafat, accompanying the United States secretary of state. They have come for the signing of a new Arab-Israeli peace pact that will bring riches for every citizen of Palestine and Israel. A huge tract of oil and natural gas has been discovered beneath the eastern Mediterranean. When the Palestinians and the Israelis sign a binding peace agreement, the United States has agreed to provide all the capital to quickly build drilling, production, and shipping facilities, all to be under the joint ownership of the two former enemies.

Even before greetings can be exchanged, however, a suicide bomber—Arafat’s own security chief—kills both the Palestinian leader and the U.S. secretary. Bennett and his CIA partner Erin McCoy survive the attack and escape to a secret CIA bunker in Gaza. They become the on-the-spot advisors to the White House on how to deal with the bloody street battles raging among the various Palestinian chiefs, all eager to replace Arafat. In addition, Israel is massing it forces, preparing to invade the Palestinian territories.

Meanwhile, the plotters behind the assassination of Arafat have also inserted terrorists into the United States with plans for coordinated attacks in various major cities—and an attempt on the U.S. president’s life.

Of course, real events have stolen some of the punch from Joel C. Rosenberg’s tale. Arafat is dead and his passing has not lead to immediate anarchy in Gaza. More significantly, however, Rosenberg’s entire tale is unbelievable regardless of this. Despite hyperbolic dust jacket blurbs by Rush Limbaugh, Oliver North, Sean Hannity, and G. Gordon Liddy, this thriller is simply not very thrilling. The characters—heroes and villains alike—are shallow political and social stereotypes. Rosenberg’s conservative political biases—and his fundamentalist apocalyptic notions—while currently popular in Washington, are so obviously driving his plot that the whole book is little more than a right-wing political comic book. Many excellent suspense novels derive from a right-of-center political viewpoint, but this is not one of them.