Thriller takes things too far

WITH the Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, US, earlier this month and all the talk about nuclear terrorism and biological warfare, weapons of mass destruction are bound to stress out people again.

WITH the Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, US, earlier this month and all the talk about nuclear terrorism and biological warfare, weapons of mass destruction are bound to stress out people again.

The two-day summit of 47 nations, which President Jacob Zuma attended, focused largely on securing all nuclear materials and in that way hope to prevent terrorist groups from getting their hands on them.

Stephen Coonts' The Disciple tackles the issue of Iran's covert programme in a 354-page fiction. The thriller is jam-packed with action and suspense - and is far-fetched, but then, the novel is fiction.

The CIA has information, through its large network of spies, inside and outside the US, that Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Iran's president, is planning to use missiles with nuclear warheads to attack US and Israeli targets within two weeks.

The central characters are CIA spy Tommy Carmellini, based in Tehran, the capital of Iran, and Jake Grafton, the new CIA head of operations in the Middle East.

The two men, with the help of Iranians who are disillusioned with the Islamic Republic, are determined to stop the attacks.

The US government, however, has information that Iran's nuclear programme is at least two years away from completion - and Grafton first has to convince his government that this information is incorrect.

So, the concern is: what if they don't believe him and also, what if the Israelis decide to take matters in their own hands?

The author, Coonts, is a former US navy pilot and Vietnam combat veteran - so his knowledge about military technology can confuse the lay person.

Coonts is a good storyteller and creates plots and characters that keep readers reading.

Sub-plots - such as the old Iranian professor who spent his life writing a book and wants his manuscript smuggled out of his country because it would be regarded blasphemous, his granddaughter who passes information to her ex-lecturer in the US, his one grandson who is determined to stop Iran vaporising millions of the world's citizens and another grandson who will do anything to see Iran's nuclear capabilities triumph - will keep readers spellbound.

However, I think Coonts' plot that the Iranian leaders intend to turn their country into a nation of martyrs to get into the good books of the Muslim world is rather taking things a bit too far.

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