Kaleidoscope - Enemy At The Gatesby Deepa Gahlot January 9 2016, 3:50 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 30 secs
With the terrorist attack at Pathankot in the news, Pakistan is once again supervillain in the Indian media. However, when it comes to portraying the evil of terrorism in Western films or books, it’s the Middle East that is pointed at for supporting militancy. How does Pakistan get away lightly in spite of being a conduit for gun-running, drugs and terrorism? A new thriller,The Survivor is a rare book, in which the focus is on Pakistan.
This is the fourteen Mitch Rapp thriller by Vince Flynn, who passed away after having written just a few pages, and the book was completed by Kyle Mills, who will write two more Mitch Rapp books, in keeping with the current trend of popular fictional characters kept going after the death of the original author.
Rapp is a CIA assassin, who is legendary in espionage circles for having carried out many successful hits and also being virtually indestructible. He is a patriot and will go to any lengths to destroy enemies of the US and protect his country. He lost his pregnant wife in an attack on his life and is even more of a loose cannon now. But there is also an attempt to humanize him and not portray him as a remorseless killing machine. He is a man of his word, is wonderful with children, and unflinchingly loyal to his friends and associates. His relationship with his senior, Stan Hurley, who is dying of cancer, is depicted with compassion. Rapp also accords total respect to his female boss, Irene Kennedy, with not an iota of insubordination, which is in sharp contrast to the way the feudal Pakistanis or the boorish American Senator Ferris treat her. In different times, under different circumstances, he would have been a better man.
Of course, these books work if the reader takes for granted that the Americans are the good guys and that it is okay for CIA hitmen to kill anybody who steps in their way. If you start questioning why the CIA plants moles all over the world and gathers information using fair means or clandestine, then Mitch Rapp, Irene Kennedy and their small band of globetrotting assassins do not come out smelling of roses.
But in The Survivor, Pakistan’s ISI turns out to be a worthy opponent and comes close to toppling the CIA, weakening the US and controlling the Middle East. Mills has a fairly good fix on Pakistan’s internal politics and has fun pushing Americans against the wall, since it is their money that funds their enemies. The US sends aid to Pakistan and it ends up with militant groups and corrupt bureaucrats to carry out their anti-America activities.
In the earlier book, The Last Man, a CIA agent Joe Rickman who had an encyclopedic knowledge of the workings of the organisation—just where the agents and deep ‘assets’ are, which diplomat or politician is being bribed and so on—went rogue. He was killed by Rapp, along with his Pakistani cohort General Durrani, but Rickman planned the destruction of the CIA from beyond the grave.
He left encrypted files to be released at timed intervals and as CIA’s network starts unraveling one secret agent at a time, in this book, it’s a race between the CIA operatives and he ISI’s devious, power hungry Chief Ahmed Taj to reach the priceless cachet of Rickman’s information before it blows up in the face of America.
Flynn and Mills may have written Mitch Flynn as a jingoistic and rougher version of James Bond, but at least this book gives credit to the Pakistanis for being just as smart and ruthless. They unscramble data faster and reach their targets before the Americans. However, Rapp is the ‘hero’ so he gets to win, though most of the info-gathering work is done by the IT wiz Marcus Dumond and the political heavy-lifting done by the unflappable Irene Kennedy.
It’s a fast-paced and exciting read, with quite a few tense action sequences. Plus, India gets an honourable mention as Pakistan’s good and stable neighbour!