Book Review: The First Hostage by Joel C. Rosenberg (Three Stars)

Book Review: The First Hostage (J. B. Collins #2) by Joel C. Rosenberg

Three Stars

“Brave is one thing. Crazy is another.”

Jack Ryan does the Middle East. Better than Clancy because Rosenberg eschews the techno-babble. Unfortunately, he also gets a lots of technical details wrong, which ruins the story for lovers of techno-thrills. What he gets right is the politics–not the details, but the sense that the melding of religion and politics makes more than strange bedfellows in the Middle East and in America.

“This is now the craziest thing I’ve ever considered doing.”

The good news is that this is a topical, fast-paced page turner. The stakes are high and everything seems to be going from bad to worse for the protagonist. Rosenberg communicates feelings, thoughts and actions in a manner which grabs the reader and doesn’t let go. For those whose knowledge of ISIS is only sound-bite deep, this is good background.

“Shouldn’t we wait for back up?” “There is no backup.”

The downside is the illogicality. The New York Times’ lead Middle East reporter doesn’t know the background of Moslem apocalyptic prophecy? (He gets a bye for not knowing Christian apocalyptic prophecy; that’s understandable.) The king of Jordan invites an American reporter into his inner policy circle during an attack? Israel has a “jet” that can drop 5000 pound bombs? Two people, equipped for combat, make a tandem parachute jump with one chute? A three-star general, probably 50 years old, leads a delta assault team? No involvement–if only chest beating and bluster–by Russia, Britain, France and Turkey–when Southeast Asia is exploding? B-2s based in potentially hostile territory?

Stranger still are the endorsements which include two (failed) presidential candidates. Did they get their defense and Middle East perspectives from reading fiction like this? This is teen-wish-fulfillment fiction.

Ignore all that; enjoy the story. Suggest you read The Third Target first.

“Thousands of people were dead because he’d failed to take ISIS seriously and deal with them earlier on.”