Review of Whitley Strieber's "Critical Mass"

Post date: Mar 9, 2013 10:00:56 PM

Critical Mass

In Whitley Strieber’s Critical Mass, Las Vegas, Nevada is nuked by a new Islamic extremist group. Worse, the same group has planted nuclear devices in national capitals in the Americas, Europe, and Asia, holding them hostage in an attempt to bend the world to Sharia law. As American intelligence operative Jim Deutsh races the clock to find the bomb intended to destroy Washington, DC, he finds betrayal at each step by a national security organization corrupted with deep penetration by enemies of the United States.

Strieber wraps within this book’s pages a myriad of true dangers facing us all: the disappearance of tons of nuclear material from Russia; the collapse of the U.S. intelligence operation aimed at interdicting those lost nukes when the Bush administration outed CIA operative Valerie Palme; and the bureaucratic nightmare created by Bush’s reorganization of the intelligence community, making it slow to respond to emergent dangers, and crowded with potentially corrupted contractors.

The author avoids the pitfalls many writers of such thrillers have made, and avoids painting the Islamic religion with a brush of evil. Instead, he makes it clear extremism of any ilk, political or religious, is dangerous. In one scene, the bombing of Las Vegas – Sin City – is applauded by Christian fundamentalists. In another, the world – Christians, Jews, and Muslims – learns to pray together. Plus the only person Deutsh knows he can trust is his former wife, herself a Muslim.

Strieber’s minutely detailed narrative of the destruction caused by nuclear weapons is both horrifying and overwhelming. At times, I wanted to shout, “Stop!” But I think that was the author’s intention. Critical Mass is a definite page turner, but it is a thinking man’s page turner.