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Now in our tenth calendar year!
PCR #480 (Vol. 10, No. 23). This edition is for the week of June 1--7, 2009.

"The Hangover"by Mike Smith
Series Retrospective: Land of the Lostby ED Tucker
"Out of the Ashes" by Skip Allenby Lisa Scherer Ciurro
Itís Official .... China Gets Hummer & Dealerships Do Or Die .... Meanwhile In North Korea .... More Taxes? .... Radio Station Fees .... Defining The Enemy .... .... tby Brandon Jones
Classic .... In Space, No One Can Hear The Word Prequel .... Passing On .... This Is Justice? .... .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2... lby Mike Smith
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FANGRRL by Lisa Scherer Ciurro

"Out of the Ashes" by Skip Allen

(Note: if you are a member of al Qaida, please be a good little terrorist and do not read this review or this book. Thank you.)

Having been raised in a traditional, gender-segregated, stereotypical Southern household, I must admit that I usually dismiss military/political "Tom Clancy-ish" thrillers as "boring guy stuff". But local author Skip Allen's debut novel Out of the Ashes is anything but boring. It's thought-provoking and scary as hell.

It's five years after 9/11 and Osama bin Laden is dead, so his brother has taken charge of al Qaida. They've learned to work smarter, not harder. Saad bin Laden has updated their core religious philosophy to eliminate the emphasis on suicide, thereby ensuring that the pool of devoted al Qaida terrorists remains constant. The al Qaida network has increased global drug trafficking activities in order to raise funds and has spent those funds on increased WMD development. They've also recruited American terrorists, so ethnic profiling isn't such a sure thing anymore. They plan to unleash their biological weapon of mass destruction -- known as "the Phoenix" -- in various cities in America's Heartland while the nation celebrates its independence.

Allen has developed some amazing and truly frightening ideas for the evolution of al Qaida. Having the American al Qaida recruits come from strict Christian households allows for some interesting parallels between Christian and Muslim fanactism. Terrorists can be recruited from anywhere, because unhappiness and emptiness are found in people from all walks of life in all parts of the world. Even though Allen described each character thoroughly, however, at times I found myself getting a little confused about who was whom during the latter part of the book, which jumps quickly from one scene (and one person) to another.

As part of the U.S. government's secret Phoenix Task Force, Army officer Matt Garret and government scientist Annie Stewart are sent to Costa Rica to work undercover and to infiltrate the al Qaida Phoenix operative. Since he set them up as past lovers, Allen is able to incorporate a romantic plot without having to go through the tedious "falling in love" stage, which would have seemed out of place given the short time period covered in this book. To me, creating this back story was a great move on Allen's part, although I wish he had skipped the overuse of terms of endearment between Matt and Annie.

Out of Ashes is a complex, fast-paced, good-versus-evil thriller that will stay with you after you've finished reading it. Hmm, maybe this "boring guy stuff" isn't so bad after all.


"FANGRRL" is ©2009 by Lisa Scherer Ciurro.   All graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.