Article first published as Book Review: ‘The Ultimatum' by James Besaw on Blogcritics.
February 17, 2015
New Novel Asks Biggest “What If?” About Terrorists in U.S.
Jim Besaw’s new novel The Ultimatum will have readers on the edge of their seats, gripped with fear for the future, filled with worry over what terrorists might do next, and ultimately, finding themselves questioning many things about the world we live in today.
The novel opens when a nuclear bomb is set off in a remote, uninhabited area of the United States. For days, Americans question who could have set off the bomb, and the U.S. Government cannot seem to come up with any better answers than the general public as it searches for terrorist cells and other public enemies.
Then comes the “ultimatum” letter. A letter from the dispatchers of the bomb, with the threat that another bomb will be detonated, this time in a populated area, if the government does not meet the demands of the terrorists who have written the letter. Those terrorists turn out to be a group of Radical Muslim Extremists, and their demands include that roughly 10 percent of the U.S. Congress be represented by Muslims, that U.S. troops leave all Islamic countries, and that Sharia Law be incorporated into all United States laws. Of course, U.S. Government officials are shocked by these demands, but they also aren’t sure how to respond. It is the policy of the U.S. Government never to negotiate with terrorists, but the President is somewhat open to their demands, feeling to some degree that they are simply asking for rights to practice their religion and culture within the United States—the same rights and freedoms all Americans want. When the Congress becomes divided on the issue, it quickly causes political fallout and chaos within the government, including doubts about the President’s leadership and personal motives when he tries to overstep his power.
While the Congress argues about whether to meet the terrorists’ demands before the imposed deadline, a team of highly qualified government intelligence officers, gathered from the CIA, Homeland Security, FBI, and other agencies is working around the clock to locate the terrorists and determine how they have managed to set off a bomb undetected. Colonel Jack Walker, retired head of the CIA, is heavily involved in the investigation, and along with his many colleagues, he makes progress, even recruiting two amateur hackers to aid in breaking codes to get at the information needed.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of the novel, at least for me, is that author Besaw also allows us inside the heads of the terrorist leaders themselves. We discover who they are and what motivates them, and at least on the surface, they seem like normal, rational, and even pleasant people. We watch them drink wine, laugh with friends, go golfing, and ultimately, stab their friends in the back. It’s soon apparent that the ringleader of this group will stop at nothing to have his demands met, and he seems too well-protected for the U.S. Government to get at him before he can unleash more terror.
To say more about the plot would be to ruin the novel’s rollercoaster ride for the reader. As one secret after another is revealed, Besaw keeps the reader experiencing constant twists and turns, until this rollercoaster novel reaches its summit and then plummets down to its dramatic ending. Yes, there are occasional moments of comic relief, and the multiple characters and scenes allow for plenty of variety, so that altogether, readers are in for an entertaining and frightening ride.
Besaw includes an introduction where he discusses the world today compared to the world he knew growing up in America in the years following World War II. He mourns that American society and its values have changed so much in recent decades. Therefore, the novel is intended as more than just entertainment; it asks hard questions about who we have become as a nation, whether the pendulum of political correctness has swung too far in the wrong direction, and whether it is now too late to restore balance.
Not every reader will agree with Besaw’s conclusions or politics, but every reader will find a lot to think about in these pages. The Ultimatum can be read for its sheer entertainment, enjoyed like one of the big summer blockbuster films full of good and bad guys and special effects to wow us, or, for those who choose, it can be read at a deeper level, asking people to question the world we live in today and to do what they can to change it before it’s too late.
For more information about The Ultimatum and Jim Besaw, visit www.JamesABesaw.com.
— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. and award-winning author of The Children of Arthur series
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