The book opens in the year 2040. It’s sometimes difficult for a reader to piece together the complete back story -- but we do learn that nuclear bombs destroyed Washington D.C. and New York City in 2015. Another blast that same year took out Mecca.
All the attacks were blamed on Zionists, so the U.S. lifted its protection of Israel and the Arab world destroyed it. Meanwhile, for some reason that’s never quite explained, tens of millions of Americans converted to Islam. Most of those who refused to convert moved south to live in a breakaway republic stretching from Texas to Virginia (whew -- I won’t have to sell my house and move) with its capital in Atlanta.
Most of the action takes place in the Islamic U.S., which stretches from California to Maine, with its capital in Seattle. Interestingly, Nevada remains a “free state” between the competing countries. Apparently even in fiction, it’s impossible to imagine Las Vegas as anything other than a desert playground where anything goes.
The story revolves around a retired warrior (early retirement, as he seems to be in his 30s) who learns that his girlfriend has gone missing. He didn’t know it, but she was researching the history of the Islamic republic. Her upcoming book was tentatively titled “The Zionist Betrayal?” and that question mark was critical. If Zionists didn’t actually betray the U.S. in 2015, everything in 2040 might be different.
Ferrigno’s story moves along swiftly and contains plenty of nice touches. In the Islamic republic, football players compete without helmets -- the better to draw blood. But they do pause during the game for mid-day prayers, as most members of the audience do.
The new country boasts a few charms, at least. “Gas is cheap,” one character says. But it apparently comes with a price -- the pristine beaches of southern California are tar pits, covered with oil from offshore drilling. Not that it would matter, since most beachgoers are afraid to bare themselves, anyway.
Apparently technology hasn’t advanced much under Islamic rule, either. Characters still zip around in automobiles today’s Americans would recognize, and their high-tech equipment isn’t really much more high tech than our iPods. Satellites from the “old regime” are beginning to degrade, and new ones haven’t been launched. Many roads are impassible, and medieval-style gangs often attack unwary travelers. All the best equipment comes from China (believable) and Russia (not so believable). American ingenuity is sorely missed.
Ferrigno paints a compelling picture, but some important questions are unanswered. Most critical is, “How did we get there from here?”
He says the wave of conversions actually started before the 2015 attacks, when an Oscar-winning actress announced her conversion during her acceptance speech. All well and good, but if Hollywood stars actually carried that much weight, most of the country would have converted to Scientology by now. Tom Cruise’s religion must be at least as likely to catch on as Islam would be.
It’s also unclear what keeps the peace along the giant border between the two competing versions of the United States. Major battles in Newark and Chicago are mentioned -- but why no fighting near Louisville?
Those quibbles aside, Ferrigno does make several astute observations. A Seattle cop mentions that under the former government, artists were actually paid tax money to dip crucifixes in urine. Such blasphemy, he notes, would never happen under the 2040 regime.
Also, San Francisco under Islamic rule is a fundamentalist hotbed. Homosexuals are frequently executed there -- a development that might not surprise another author, Bruce Bawer, a homosexual now living in Europe.
His latest book is “While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within.” As Bawer wrote on his Web site, “If fundamentalist Muslims in Europe do not carry out these punishments (executing homosexuals), it is not because they’ve advanced beyond such thinking, but because they don’t have the power.” In “Assassin,” Ferrigno anticipates the Islamic takeover of the continent by noting that as far back as the 1970s, a clever leader encouraged Muslims to emigrate to, but not to integrate with, Europe.
Anything can happen between now and 2040. It seems unlikely that the United States we turn over to our children will be an Islamic republic. But “Prayers for the Assassin” is good read and a timely warning of what could happen unless we’re careful. Since, as Jefferson said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”