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I live in a world sat on a Bell Curve, a world that is silently run by a mild majority. In the world of politics we often hear people shouting from the roof tops about their alliances - be they right or left. In reality a Bell Curve suggests that the majority of people will sit somewhere in the middle supporting both sides on occasion whilst never over committing. This level of commitment is also inherent in religious circles. Islam gets a bad press as the papers would have us believe it is a religion of fanatics, but look closer and I reckon once again a silent moderate majority will be the dominate force. Robert Ferrigno's 'Assassin' trilogy looks at an America overtaken by Islam. In book One I felt it was too negative and portrayed Muslims poorly, could book two acknowledge the many moderate Muslims that would live in such a society?
'Sins of the Assassin' sees Rakkim return after defeating the plans of the evil 'Old One' in the previous novel. However, if he thought the nation was safe he needs to think again as Christian fundamentalists in the Bible belt seem to have discovered the whereabouts of a potentially devastating weapon. Rakkim must go under cover into enemy territory alongside a socially unaware computer hacker to try and uncover the weapon first. Meanwhile his wife Sarah must remain hidden from the 'Old One' who seeks revenge. Can Rakkim succeed in his quest or face the destruction of the new America?
When a favourite author changes artistic direction you may not want to go with them. This was certainly the case for me when Robert Ferrigno went from writing cold LA crime noir to writing near future political thrillers. The change in direction jolted me and I have to say that 'Prayers of the Assassin' was not his best book. The idea of Islam taking over America is initially a hard concept to sell, but I went along with it. My issue was his attitude towards faith and the people who preach it. He seemed to jump on every stereotype and bandwagon and left a book that left a little too pro American and anti-Islam for my liking. I am glad then that book 2 in the series has settled down and promotes the more moderate Muslims in this new America.
'Sins of the Assassin' is set in two diverse regions of America, the rich north controlled by a moderate Islamic President and the Bible belt of the South run by Christian overlords. What was refreshing here was that the cliché Muslim bad guys are now sidelined as extremists. I am much happier reading 'Sins' as it promotes the bad guys as not real Muslims, but a distortion. What is also refreshing is that we learn more about the Christians who survived. Within this group there are also extremists and by no means are they any better than their Islamic counterparts.
With the politics and religion in the book sitting in a better place than before I found myself able to enjoy the book. The two distinct regions of America are wonderfully realised, a cold North and a seemingly chaotic South. Rakkim must traverse both worlds never giving away his identity. I especially liked the parts of the book set in the South. Ferrigno is great at creating dark mystery and you can almost smell and taste the South he creates. One way in which he makes the whole world of 'Sins' more realistic is by introducing parallel histories to our own. In this world the FBI's mismanagement of Waco is a religious festival for the Christian South. The Iraq war and bank crises led to poverty and without a strong religious base America turned to Islam as something to follow. What 'Sins' portrays is a strange, but just possible, future that we could end up in. By interweaving our own Earth with that of 'Sins' Ferrigno paints a rich tapestry of imagination and possibility.
With this exciting alternative reality established, the story of Rakkim does not quite hold up as well. 'Sins' is certainly a better narrative than the last book, but once again it dissolves into an action fest towards the end that does not quite sit with the rest of the book. The characters are also a little hammy with Rakkim becoming more interesting here, but still not as charismatic as I would like. Another issue I had with the book was the strange science fiction elements that popped in on occasion from intelligent skin to DNA transfer. This sits uncomfortably, not only with the action elements, but also the supernatural religious notes. What is it sci fi, supernatural or straight thriller? It seems that Ferrigno has got to the end of book 2 and not quite decided himself.
Overall the book works because Ferrigno has created an interesting and different world in which to set his books. The tales of revenge and religion cross any barrier of genre, but they are interesting to read in a different context. I hope that the final part of the trilogy will wrap things up well with more emphasis on character and story. If Ferrigno reverts back to his dubious description of Islam he may struggle to write a sympathetic conclusion.
Author: Robert Ferrigno
Price: amazon uk - £14.13