Monday, May 31, 2010

Review: The Tehran Conviction by Tom Gabbay

This is the very first "for review" book I'd ever read, won through Goodreads' First Reads giveaway program. This is actually the third in a series, the first two being The Berlin Conspiracy and The Lisbon Crossing. I really enjoyed the book, despite not having read the first books, and didn't feel that it was necessary to have read them at all. Here's my review in full, again copied from I seem to have been reading a lot of books about the Middle East lately. All fiction, but all have given me a little more insight into the similarities and differences between their culture and our own. No exception to that trend with The Tehran Conviction. More about that in a bit. First, let me start out by talking about the word "conviction". The book begins by defining the term: Conviction (n.) 1. A fixed or strongly held belief. 2. The act of being found of proved guilty. Obviously, both of the definitions have their role to play in the story, but the first is the one that had the most effect on me. Gabbay's way of showing idealism vs. realism with regard to individual and personal freedoms as well as what it means to love your country was very moving to me. His way of describing these ideas and thoughts are almost poetic, but still practical and practicable at the same time, if you've a mind to do so. These themes are universal. We all want the right to be free and to do as we choose and to live as good a life as possible. I felt that Gabbay represented Iran and the world of the CIA very fairly through Jack, who was willing to be their man, but still, despite his words and actions, I felt didn't really believe that the CIA was right in everything it did. I know that's ironic, because they always say that actions speak louder than words, and here Jack is using both to say one thing, but I just FEEL that he means another. I like that Jack's character was fleshed out enough so that I could get that impression. He wasn't the regular one-dimensional "Action Hero™". He was a regular guy who was drafted to do something extraordinary, and he did the best that he could with what he had to work with. I'll just briefly mention one of the things that most affected me in this book, and that is the theme of deceit and betrayal. It just runs rampant! Nobody can trust anyone else. But what really struck me, is that the United States would take the step of deceiving a nation simply in order to exploit it in the first place. I know, I know, you're probably yelling at your monitor right now, asking me where I've been for the last 27 years (which happens to be my age, if you're wondering), under a rock?? But no, I've been right here, in the Good Ol' U.S. of A. watching things go from bad to worse right along with you. I think deep down, we all hold the conviction that our country is the greatest on earth. Love of country runs in our blood, as it should. You have to love where you come from in order to love who you are. But that is NOT the same as letting that country run rampant and do anything and everything it wants to while the citizens turn a blind eye. There are people who denounce anyone who doesn't agree with "High Level Government Decisions" as unpatriotic. But I disagree. It is unpatriotic to sit by and let your country lose itself. But I digress. My point, in all of that, was that in 1953 America decided to stage a coup in order to overthrow the government in Iran as a means to access their oil. Perhaps I am an idealist, but I grew up thinking that my country was better than that, that we treated people fairly and helped other countries and their people. "Fool me once, shame on you... Fool me twice - you can't get fooled again." -- Pres. "Dubya". Anyway, I'm rambling on and turning this into a little political rant. Oops! I did really enjoy the book. Gabbay's descriptions had me feeling as if I was there. I could see the streets, I could see the people, I could feel the arid heat. I loved this aspect of the book, because after all, I read for escapism. This book isn't exactly one that I would want to literally escape into, though. Iran in the book is at a cross-roads, with political upheaval knocking on the doors and religious zealots climbing in the windows, it's not exactly a restful place to be. I was happy to see that Gabbay didn't sugar-coat daily life in Iran. I've never been there, but I can't imagine it's all sunshine and daisies. There are aspects of every culture that we'd rather not see, but they are there nonetheless. And Gabbay didn't shy away from them or beat around the bush. Good for him. I wanted to give this book 5 stars, but there were some things that prevented me from doing so: First, the book opened with a poker game, although I only figured that out in context. Actually the book opened with Jack holding "the dead man's hand", which I thought was a literal dead man's hand, not being a poker player. So, I would have liked that to be a little more clear. Secondly, some of the editing could have used a bit of work. On the same page (4), we have both "prizewinning" and "prize-winning" make an appearance. I probably wouldn't have noticed the difference, except they were on the same page. Finally, some of the sections ended rather abruptly. I don't mean "cliff-hanger" abruptly, I mean, "starting a new thought then oh new section!" abruptly. It was a little distracting. Those things aside, I really did enjoy the book very much. The changes from 1953 to 1979 were well done and well placed. They never felt forced or rushed and kept the momentum up with both story lines. At the end of the book, I felt as though there were appropriate resolutions to both story lines. It was not hard to follow at all, as some books which change time periods can be. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a good political thriller, or who has any interest in the Middle East. Very good. I will keep an eye out for Gabbay's other books as well. P.S. A special thank you to Tom Gabbay himself, if you're reading this, for letting me know that I could read the book without having read the first two. (I am a stickler for reading series books in the right order, back to back.) Anyway, Tom, thank you for the information, and for listing your book with the FirstReads giveaway, too. :) Originally Reviewed: August 28, 2009

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