The best fiction always teaches us something about the truth. And, in its finest form, it seduces us through the power of story. Great fiction liberates us from preconceptions and allows us to come into contact with truth that may ordinarily elude us. C.S. Lewis was a master of this, he subverted prejudice with plot and character so engaging that readers barely perceived the golden threads of revealed knowledge woven into the tapestry of his conjured world. In this way, millions have come to understand eternal truths that would normally have fallen on deaf ears and stony ground.
New York Times bestselling author Brad Thor understands the unique power inherent in fiction and uses it to full advantage in an adrenaline ride through labyrinthine worlds of espionage and international intrigue. Thor crafts scenes of combat so artfully told that the reader slips the bonds of reality and feels the crisp recoil of an M4 carbine while hissing RPG's detonate in a bloom of desert sand and jagged metal. He weaves the golden thread of truth though deliciously detailed worlds set in Austria, Italy, Iraq, and more--a world tour in clandestine pursuit of an international spy and terrorist.
There is certainly no lack of thrill in Thor's new thriller--Foreign Agent. Thor's latest story begins in the ancient deserts of Iraq with an elite CIA team poised to grill a few steaks. And, what testosterone fueled cook-out would be complete without a collection of smart, accomplished, and gorgeous women--oh, and a few beers? But, the ancient spirit of Muhammad stirs in the shadows that darkness draws in undulating forms over the face of the shifting desert, like a Salvador Dali painted by the moon in the deep and solemn hues of night. ISIS fighters lurk and scuttle in their native darkness until an ambush is assembled. Then, the sounds of sizzling steaks are drowned by the deafening voice of battle.
Scott Harvath, Thor's protagonist and apex warrior, wastes no time picking at the frayed edges of conspiracy and treachery in pursuit of a shadowy operative who is unleashing mayhem and death. Harvath leaves a bloody trail of corpses and broken bones in a satisfyingly vengeful pursuit of justice and national interest. Harvath is Brad Thor's literary scalpel and meets out a surgical "eye for an eye" measure of justice.
But, behind all of the sophisticated romantic entanglements and enthralling clandestine operations, there are profundities in Thor's Foreign Agent that make this book another in a series of important works of fiction. Most books in the thriller genre only deliver diversion and a measure of vicarious fun, but Thor delivers something of inestimable value. He weaves into the narrative golden strands of truth about the nature of this generation's most committed and dangerous foe--orthodox Islam.
In Foreign Agent, Brad Thor does something courageous. He uses the literary device of internal monologue to teach us something about the nature of ISIS and Islam. Thor's protagonist, Scott Harvath, reasons that for Islamic fundamentalists, "Their warriors were practicing the truest, most basic form of Islam. It was the Islam that their prophet, considered the perfect man, had taught them. It was the Islam laid out clearly in the Quran. They were not perverting their religion--they were purifying it." Harvath concludes that violence is orthodox Islam. This is an idea that terrifies a feckless Obama administration, the idea that Islam itself is the problem and that only a radical reinterpretation of Mohammedan principles can resolve the doctrinally fueled barbarism. For the fictional Harvath and for Thor, jihadism is the "worst enemy that civilization [has] ever faced."
During an interview with Townhall, Brad Thor elaborated on the idea of the orthodox nature of violence in Islam. "I started reading everything I could get my hands on about Islam...I was fascinated by how, basically, people could read the same book and come away with different ideas and I was particularly interested in how people used the Quran to justify violence." Thor embarked on a thorough study of Mohammed's life and traced his increasingly violent history from Mecca, a relatively benign period, to his homicidal episodes in Medina. "He became increasingly intolerant towards people who would not join his faith."
Thor sees the fundamental problems of Islam as a lack of reformation and also in the expression of the doctrine of abrogation. Thor told Townhall, "What's fascinating is when I debate Muslim apologists [about Islamic violence] I get told I'm cherry picking verses out of the Quran, that if people went into the Bible they could do the same thing, except the Bible is different...Christianity has had a reformation, Judaism has had a reformation, Islam has not had a reformation."
Thor then elucidated Islam's doctrine of abrogation, "what's more if you had organized the Quran chronologically you'll find that most of the peaceful stuff is up front and most of the horrifically violent stuff is toward the end. [Muhammad] told his followers. What I say today is what is the purest form of truth. It abrogates or wipes out anything else that I might have said that is contradictory. That creates a lot of problems for the rest of the world if Mohammad is giving his people the most violent, angry stuff at the end of his life."
Unquestionably, Thor has done his homework regarding the highly politicized issue of Islamic violence. But, attention to detail has always been a hallmark of Thor's best selling thrillers. Foreign Agent packs meticulous detail and historical references into a narrative so well paced that the reader encounters them organically, lost in Harvath's borderless world.
One of the most poignant moments in Harvath's Odyssey-eqsue saga expresses an ethos forged on an actual battlefield by men whose deeds are no less worthy of immortalization than those recorded by Homer's ancient pen. Contemplating imminent battle, Harvath reflects on his warrior creed: "As long as you could fight, you're in the fight, and that meant the fight wasn't over. Nothing was impossible." Thor told Townhall, "That is absolutely one hundred percent an homage to Marcus Luttrell and the entire SEAL community."
In the end, Foreign Agent isn't about cheap escapism or the vanity of vicarious heroism, like all of Brad Thor's thrillers, this latest, sure to be best seller, is about the entire Special Operations community and the truths that animate their dedication, courage, and unwavering patriotism. Foreign Agent is a call to national heroism and reminds us that we have no lack of exemplars worthy of imitation.
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