June 29, 2011

Book Review: The Twelfth Imam

I just finished Joel Rosenberg's latest. This was my first experience with Rosenberg, even though I've had him recommended to me many times over the years. I am so sorry I waited this long.

The Twelfth Imam is a political thriller about a young man working as a CIA operative in Iran, working to prevent nuclear war. As a teenager, the girl David loved lost her mother in the Twin Towers. He then made it his life's goal to do whatever he could to hunt down Osama bin Laden. On that path, he has been assigned to Iran to work undercover to expose and stop Iran's nuclear program. While on that mission, he discovers the Muslim cult known as "Twelvers," a splinter group within Shia Islam that believes the Twelfth Imam, or Hidden Imam, their Messiah, is soon to return to this world. And what's more, the Twelvers have infiltrated the highest levels of government and religion in Iran, hastening their nuclear arms race. Understanding this cult and their influence on Iran may be the only thing that prevents the world from breaking into full nuclear warfare. Meanwhile, a man has been visiting various parts of Iran performing miracles and giving prophecies. Has the Twelfth Imam arrived? Does it mean the end of the world?

This was a great read. For one thing, the pace is super-fast. It doesn't slow down for a second, even though it covers about 40 years and 3 different people's points of view. Plus all the main characters are very compelling, round people that you really care about. So much so, that when I got to the end and realized this was only the first book in a trilogy, I about popped a blood vessel. Thankfully, the second installment comes out (projected) later this year.

But what is really interesting is how much of this story is based in fact. After reading it, I started doing some research and found out a lot of the elements Rosenberg includes in his story are actually true. There really are Twelvers, who believe that in order for their Messiah to come, the world must be in "total chaos," so he can come to bring peace. And the current leaders of Iran, like Ahmadinejad, are Twelvers. Which, of course, casts a whole new light on any potential peace talks. How do you reason with people who, as Michael Caine put it in Dark Knight, "just want to watch the world burn?"

This is why I love fiction and educating through fiction. I can promise you, as interesting and timely current events and international politics with Iran are, I would not have sat down and read as many pages of an article or interview on Iran's nuclear program or fringe Muslim cults. But integrating that information in a compelling novel form with round characters and raw emotions - that's how I like to absorb information, through osmosis, not by being beaten over the head with facts and figures.

Of course, it was a little weird reading about a person whose life's ambition is to be the one to capture OBL. (Twelfth Imam only came out in 2010.) But that's not a main element to the story. It was just amusing. Every time the subject came up, I have to say, I breathed a little sigh of relief that that has already been achieved. And reading this week that underground nuclear facilities have been "found" in Iran...well, that was a major plot point in the book. Crazy, huh?

There's action, there's suspense, there's romance - and it's a Christian political thriller, did I mention that? Not preachy, but it's there. And Rosenberg dedicates his book to the believers living in hiding in Iran, which is also explored in the story.

Even though it's the first in a series, and only has partial plot resolution, I will definitely be rereading this one. And grabbing whatever else I can by Rosenberg. Consider me a fangirl.


  1. This book sounds really good! But I am not a very patient person when it comes to book series. So I will probably wait until all 3 come out before I start reading them.

  2. This book sounds so fascinating. Thanks for the great recommendation! :)

  3. This recommendation came at a great time. I am looking for a new book! Thanks. It looks really interesting. Have you ever read Daniel Silva? He writes from the point of view of Israel. Very interesting.

  4. Sounds interesting especially when Its a part of my belief.


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