Like a movie franchise or a toy, Christmas is as good as any season to introduce a fictional survival story. Enter Johnny Jacks and his debut novel, “Islam Rising,” the first in the “Patriots and Infidels” series.
I’ve met Jacks several times, and he is one of the nicest and most interesting characters on the prepper publishing scene. Yet, while Jacks may be the newest writer to try his hand in the post-apocalyptic fiction genre, the combination of his life experience and innate writing skills prove this guy is no rookie.
He’s a former Green Beret with tours in Vietnam, Turkey, Panama and Germany (among others). He’s the author of the preparedness manual “Absolute Anarchy,” and it’s obvious that his Special Forces experience informs his thinking.
Not a Textbook
Even though Jacks embeds enough concepts of preparedness and self-reliance throughout the book to feed any practical hunger for the subject, “Islam Rising” is not a “how-to” book disguised as a novel.
Instead, Jacks gives us a story driven by complex characters who deal with the kind of challenges preppers experience every day.
Divorce, family deaths, crime, infidelity, passion, alcoholism, politics, child-parent estrangement, religion, money and other “normal” issues impact every key person inhabiting the novel.
It is precisely his character-driven storytelling that makes this book such an enjoyable change from most apocalyptic novels.
Unfortunately, retail bookshelves are rife with Armageddon stories purely focused on the events protagonists must overcome, and the tactics needed to survive. Thus, the books only present flat characters with no individual depth or real-life complexity.
Too many new authors fail to explore their hero’s development, which makes the characters difficult to care about. Of course, some may write this way purposefully, the good writers develop the skill and insight and use it in subsequent novels.
So, where most inexperienced authors falter, Jacks gets it right from the very start.
He doesn’t waste our time with inane conversations about making coffee, or the weather. Not once did I notice any wasted dialogue. And, while the heroes teach readers plenty of steps to consider for preparation, Jacks doesn’t fill space with things like lists of lists. Instead, his character exchanges move the plot along, making the book an easy and compelling read.
Jacks describes this method as “showing” the story. What results is a group of characters that unfold, mature and round out as they overcome or plan for events playing out in the book.
A Story as Complex as Real Life
“Islam Rising” focuses on Houston detective, and retired Special Forces veteran, Grayson Dean.
A complex character, Dean deals with out-of-control anger issues that feed his impulsive nature and lead to trouble. Yet, like many of his brother Green Berets, he can be levelheaded, politically savvy, compassionate and personable.
For Dean, the daily struggle is multifaceted. He manages the loss of his wife, a son that hates him, and a growing love for not one, but two women. At the same time, this police officer fights big-city crime and a cop-hating ACLU lawyer.
To manage his demons within and without, Dean relies on faith and his close friends who convince him that a collapse is coming, and they need his help to prepare.
Meanwhile, Carlos Murtadha, a Mexican-born Muslim with a deep-seeded grudge, launches a plot to destroy life as we know it. The former gang leader is destined for infamy in a big way, and he has Dean in his crosshairs.
The book covers a span of approximately 20 years, and readers should be ready for Jacks to do a little time shifting between chapters. Much like the 2017 film “Dunkirk,” readers will have to stay on their mental toes to keep the timeline straight as it comes together in the closing chapters.
While I’m not a fan of how Dean spent four years of his life at one point (no spoilers here), it’s a fairly insignificant issue and not enough of a distraction to negatively impact the book.
Good Art Imitating the Real World
“Islam Rising” is a gut-wrenching introduction to the people, relationships and lives of the main characters within the unfolding “Patriots and Infidels” series. While full of action and drama, it sets the tone for the pre-determined clash between Dean and the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it.
Through a technique called fact-based fiction, Jacks lays out an entirely plausible plan that threatens America. Using interesting characters to explain Islam and its desired conquest of Western civilization, he builds from the current struggle overwhelming Europeans today as they grapple with a Muslim invasion.
It’s a subject all but ignored in the states, yet one Jacks knows well from his service in Middle Eastern countries, and high level positions within the U.S. government.
Readers should enjoy this thriller’s character stories, as well as the action and Green Beret-led efforts to prepare for the worst.
Paratus Business News highly recommends this book and looks forward to future chapters in the “Patriots and Infidels” series.
“Islam Rising” is available in paperback for $14.95 at Amazon, and for download on Kindle. It will be available on Audible in January.