Iran, Iraq, Palestine, the Middle East ... will the conflict never end?
Feb 1, 2010
Built around the interminable Arab/Israeli conflict in the Middle East, the plot is simply enough told. Two Concorde jets, packed with a small army of politicians, diplomats, security agents and a typical administrative entourage take off from Lod Airport in Israel. Their destination is a UN peace conference that many believe will lead to a final and lasting peace in the Middle East. But there are also some so filled with hatred that they will do almost anything to sabotage the conference and ensure that the wish for peace becomes a house of cards collapsing in a hail of bullets and blood. In a cunning plan that stretches out years in the planning, a team of terrorists blow up one of the jets and skyjack the other forcing it to land in the desert along the Euphrates River.
"By the Rivers of Babylon" tells a thrilling tale of survival and the guerilla-like commando tactics of the heroic passengers of the Concorde as they struggle desperately against their attackers and attempt against all odds to reach the outside world with news of their plight in the Babylonian desert. In his first novel, DeMille makes grand statements about the nature of courage and heroism under fire, sacrifice, loyalty, altruism and love. He has crafted interesting characters such as Jacob Hausner, the security officer who cannot forgive himself for his careless oversight many years earlier that allowed the terrorists access to the Concorde's inner workings. We witness Miriam Bernstein, Golda Meir's young and beautiful hand-picked political protégé evolve away from her roots as a far left wing advocate of peace at almost any cost.
"By the Rivers of Babylon" is undoubtedly a page-turner but equally clearly it is an early work that simply doesn't measure up to his later thrillers and his ability to craft much, much deeper and more complex, multi-faceted characters such as John Corey and Kate Mayfield. Nor does the plot move along with the same speed and, by my measure, suffered from a certain repetitive sameness that would have been eliminated with some judicious editing to shorten the novel.
But that said, the techno-thriller world would be a poorer place without the benefit of "By the Rivers of Babylon". Recommended.