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by Frederick Forsyth
Corgi, August 2007
464 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0552155047

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Now out in paperback, Frederick Forsyth’s THE AFGHAN is a story as convoluted as an Al-Qaeda operation. Spanning its global network, from Afghanistan to Indonesia to the Caribbean, Forsyth has attempted to show the range and depth of this contemporary terrorist organization; however, in doing so, he has also created a story that stretches the imagination, relying heavily on coincidence to carry his plot forward.

In an accidental discovery and capture of an Al-Qaeda computer in Pakistan, the British and American intelligence services have also discovered reference to a forthcoming Al-Qaeda event that must be stopped at all costs. The only problem is that all the details are unknown and unknowable due to an inability to infiltrate the terrorist group. As a result of their desperation, the intelligence teams decide to replace a captured Taliban prisoner at Gitmo (“the Afghan”) with a former British SAS officer.

This is just the first of many unbelievable plot devices employed by Forsyth in this thriller. Others are even more belief-defying, include the following: the replacement SAS officer once saved the Afghan’s life, Ayman al-Zawahiri (Al Qaeda’s number two man) was the doctor present when the Afghan was saved, a plane crashes into the safe house where the real prisoner is being held, and more.

There are also plenty of smaller mistakes among the voluminous detail employed in this book. There are plot developments that are accidentally dropped (stored weapons never recovered), military terminology that is incorrect (for those who relish the fine detail), and a grounding in current events that make important players obsolete as they are replaced by new ones (John Negroponte, the former director of national intelligence, is one example).

Most of all, Forsyth, for all his military and political detail, has created a convoluted story that remains unconvincing. He includes too many tangential references that add nothing to the main plot, throwing in references to Northern Ireland and Kosovo, for example. He takes the story around the globe for little reason. He switches from one piece of the puzzle to another without explanation, all within the space of a few pages, making continuity a real problem for the reader.

In the end, he leaves the reader with a final, climactic scene that seems to come out of nowhere and is unlikely ever to occur in real life. Although readers applaud Forsyth for taking on such contemporary events and organizations, these do not serve him well in THE AFGHAN.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, August 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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