Mark Muntor was undoubtedly an unwilling Christ. He refused to pay for the sins the world has heaped up on themselves. Starting at home, he had to endure his enormously fat wife, who smoked two packets of unfiltered Camels a day, taught their two daughters to do the same, and left him after the divorce to live without real human contact for ten whole years.
There was his chain-smoking drunkard dad, who called him a loser for not saving his mother's life after she overdosed and committed suicide. His dad blamed him for not being more than the sum total of the person he became. Muntor was also a laid-off journalist, who wasn't appreciated by his industry either. He was convinced of that.
His friends did not fare better either. They were like the rest of America:
"dump, useless people who perhaps read an average of five books a year, mostly bullshit recycled pop-spych disguised as self-help, and romance stories. Muntor read more than 200 books per year and could have qualified for several PhDs by now. The fat, lazy and ignorant lived on, like cows chewing the cud of the Madison Avenue and government propaganda that had replaced intellect in American life. People were too stupid and weak to understand the lesson he presented to them. They polluted their bodies and minds with physiological and intellectual poisons—drink, drugs, cigarettes, ludicrous TV shows, books aimed at the masses. He had hardened himself, become even more of a model of human potential. His body was a temple, and he was the high priest. The more people failed to respond to the lesson he delivered merely by walking out the house each day, the more he became devoted to his mission. In the end, he knew that the cows would never learn."
And now he is the one dying of lung cancer. He was the perfect example of what a gift it was to be born in a healthy body with a powerful mind. He was simply not meant to die, at the age of fifty six. He treated his human armor against the elements with respect all his life. He would show them all what he was made of. He would take a few sinners with him. Deservedly or undeservedly, they would make him the hero of his own American Masada.
Building his Masada required more than the victims going down with him. He needed the tobacco companies, the FBI, the media hype and every other which way to storm the walls of his fortress of righteous control and fail miserably in doing so. He needed them all to fuel his legend, his hero status, his place in history. Incognito was simply not his middle name. Period.
His time on earth was short, his dreams big, his body unwilling, his spirit indestructible. Suicide, being nature's own severest form of self-criticism, would not be the ironic outcome of his own Masada. No, he had Danté's Virgil from the greatest poem ever written, on his side. Written seven hundred years ago, and divided into three parts, the Inferno, Purgatrio and Paradiso, it would become the ultimate building blocks of his own revenge. He would start off by mailing 700 letters to the carefully chosen unsuspecting inhabitants of his American Masada...
COMMENTS: I was initially livid at the protagonist's arrogance as well as the 'what if' element behind the story and the devastating consequences this book could have if it landed in the wrong hands, because, we all know it is possible, how many times have this kind of lunacy served to cause immeasurable sorrow in America. Who can ever forget the Uni-bomber, the school shootings, and so many more?
I still do not subscribe to the message in the book and it undoubtedly has an influence on the subjective appraisal of its content. I strongly reject the idea of forcing people to die if they do not want to accept mores and values being forced upon them. So yes, does it make me a groupie to the average American psyche? For sure. Now get over yourself and get lost, with my compliments, Muntor! Or a simple 'Now bite me' will do nicely. Everyone in the world has problems, and my opposition to this kind of mind-mmmm-fornication, is your problem, Muntro. You've so chosen the wrong opponent, Muntro! If I was one of those people, hot on your trail, even your mama's pictures of you on her bedroom wall would have burst out in tears, and that's guaranteed, Muntro!
And so said the body language of all the American characters in the story as well. And this is why the book should be read!
The further I steamed through my chagrin and distaste of the whole set-up, the more I realized what a brilliant book this was and I simply hated myself for admiring the master at work behind it all.
Every single element in the book played a pivotal role in the construction of the strong outcome. Yes, melodramatic and grotesque in form and structure, as all good, American, psychological thriller movies require, since it has movie potential, it worked splendidly!
The sub themes in the book, well developed, reminded me so much of John Lennon's words "Life is happening to us while we're busy making other plans." All the characters had their own stories to tell, and a distinguished role to play in the riveting saga.
There isn't much surprises in the character choices nor in the theme. Was the message, new, or successful? The information used in the book to attack the tobacco industry was as stale as the smoke in a closed-up restroom. More people smoke than ever before in the history of the world. A fact that has been, perhaps conveniently, left unsaid. More young people have made it their drug of choice. Ironic, right?
However, the thrilling suspense kept me in deep trouble and hopelessly determined to finish the book in one sitting, come Hell or high water. The development of the story line, the characters, the mind games, compassion, as well as the pragmatism made this an excellent read. Nobody in the book is perfect, which is endearing and acceptable. It makes the story so much more possible. They are all people we can relate to.
Was the book worth the angst? Yes, even the reader is controlled! It felt like being held captive in a serial killer's mind with no way out. The only escape was to storm ahead to the ending. The last period finally set me free. I fell asleep exhausted but immensely relieved. You have simply no idea!
So, without further ado, five stars it is!
An Inside Job Media publication through Netgalley. Thank you for the opportunity.