Terrorism frightens people because it operates outside the traditional rules of war. It's hard to combat because the attacks are no longer limited to people wearing military uniforms at well-formed battle lines: they can happen anywhere, at any time, and they may well target people who don't have any direct knowledge of the peoples and issues involved. Part of the terror is the pervasive feeling that nobody’s safe.
This is the arena of Abe F. March's chilling novel They Plotted Revenge Against America. The novel is chilling, not because it's filled with “just more violence” in the Middle East, but because the story occurs on American soil as survivors of the American attack on Baghdad blend in to mainstream society to personally extract revenge against everyday citizens.
They Plotted Revenge Against America is a plausible, sobering, intricate and effectively plotted story about a group of well-trained, well-coordinated teams who slip into the U.S. with forged papers and then painstakingly work through a plan that will infect food and water supplies with a deadly virus.
These team members are not the gun-wielding, grenade-throwing stereotypical terrorists we see in most TV shows and movies. They are everyday people who have suffered personal loss and who want to fight back. Once their mission is complete, they plan, if possible, to go back to their normal lives. As the mission unfolds, they alternate between excitement and doubt while trying to avoid detection, and in the process, they discover while blending into community life, that Americans are not the monsters they expected.
March’s story tends to humanize both the terrorists and their victims, showing Americans as largely unconcerned and ill-informed about the agendas and issues involved in the long-time conflicts between Israel and its Arab neighbors. On the other hand, the terrorists see themselves not as criminals but as soldiers responding to what they view as acts of war taken against their communities.
Since the overall mission leader is a double agent working for Israel's Mossad, group members must not only avoid Homeland Security and other U.S. law enforcement agencies, but the highly effective Israeli intelligence agency as well. This subplot is a nice touch in a book that suggests we're more vulnerable than we suspect.
On a minor note, it’s a shame to see books from some of the newer publishers being printed in a sans serif body type. This is not only “not done,” but has been shown via many years of legibility studies to make blocks of type more difficult to read. That said, the book is not only a great story, but nourishing food for thought.