Reminiscent of Tom Clancy in excitement and technical explanation, with a touch of Nevil Shute perhaps, and a thoroughly modern, Jewish worldview, Noah Beck invites his readers onto an Israeli attack submarine in a time of sickness and unrest. But first there’s the “picnic before doomsday” where family reunions provide a platform for endearing conversations and fascinating backstories, building relationships between reader and character that add depth and pathos to the novel. The submarine feels real, from details of relationships to the timing and manner of a dive, and the size of a bunk. It’s hard not to imagine I’m watching a movie as I read, picturing the characters and hearing their voices as they speak. Religious, non-religious, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and more, the brothers in the submarine band together, trust each other, play poker and try to understand the news they’re given of the world outside. The submarine’s family binds them, and their stories make them real. But soon, a shared sense of terror and danger will leave them bound in complex discussions of morality, democracy and war. In a world where nuclear threats continue to proliferate, where Israel may soon face a threat from its neighbors as great as the threat it poses, nothing’s simple and no answers are easily found. Détente remains as fragile an imitation of peace as it has ever been, and The Last Israelis is as thought-provoking and sobering as it is exciting. The author hopes to change the world and perhaps he will have a hand in changing at least one reader at a time.
Disclosure: I was lucky enough to be given a copy of the second edition of this novel by the author.