Book review: The end of the world

When a nuclear Iran threatens both the US and Israel, unthinkable options are put on the table.

THE TENTH PLAGUE (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Tenth Plague is one scary, wild ride, with more surprises than any such story I’ve read in a long time. It involves everything from commando raids on Iranian nuclear facilities to the World War II-era Lend-Lease program; from the sinking of an American nuclear submarine to a planned attack on Washington, DC, and New York City; from a harrowing escape from an Iranian prison to the first practical testing of a laser antimissile weapon.
Set in 2028, the novel is strewn with scenes of merciless torture and cruel murder of the innocents, impossible escapes carried out with great panache, and Israeli and American operations executed with courage and precision.
Technological breakthroughs include a laser rifle, which cuts its victims in half; advances in stealth technology that makes Russian submarines invisible to American radar; a neutron bomb that kills everyone in the immediate area of the bomb’s explosion; and a super biological weapon that could eradicate human life.
It may be somewhat lacking in the credibility department, but it is ultra-suspenseful and, more important, graphically demonstrates the mortal danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose generally to the world and specifically to the Jewish state.
A former career IDF officer has told me that one fear among Israeli leaders is that a nuclear Iran would threaten Israel with annihilation every time Jerusalem would be poised to retaliate for an attack by Hezbollah or Hamas. Of course, without fear of Israeli reprisal, these terrorist groups would make life impossible for residents of the Jewish state.
But the premise of this book is much more ominous. A high-ranking Iranian officer in the pay of the Mossad tells Israeli leaders – Joshua Ben-Gurion, David Ben-Gurion’s great-grandson, is prime minister – that Tehran is planning to have four submarines tow nuclear missiles in containers close to the American East Coast and then, on July 4, launch them against Washington and New York. (According to the author, this is mimicking Hitler’s plan during World War II to bomb New York City with missiles – minus the nukes, of course, which Germany did not possess.)
Eleven days later, the Iranians would launch 20 nuclear-tipped missiles at Tel Aviv. The Israelis cannot warn the Iranians they know about the plan, for threatened retaliation will not deter the fanatical mullahs ruling that country. They cannot attack the missiles with conventional weapons, for they are mounted on trucks and hidden in mountains.
In the background, is Vladimir Putin, still in charge in Moscow, gleefully encouraging the Iranians to attack the US and giving them material support to carry out the mission, while maintaining deniability for his actions.
And then there is that super biological weapon. Israel has developed the Plague Ten Virus, which is highly contagious and deadly. All the Jewish state has to do is inoculate all its citizen and release the virus toward Jordan. It will spread to Iraq and then Iran, killing everyone. This virus also devours bone and tissue, thus literally erasing all the people it kills.
If great care is not taken, however, it could escape to areas outside Iran and threaten all mankind.
Israeli leaders have made a deal with the US: Help us destroy the Iranian nuclear weapons, and we will not release the Plague Ten Virus.
US President Robert Jones Portman is not happy. He tells his advisers: “First, it still rankles me that Israel has blackmailed us into this Plague Ten crap.... And these rabid Iranians with relentless plots to target us, with great assistance by Putin, are really irritating the hell out of me.”
And, of course, the Russian leader is getting on his nerves. “Gentlemen,” says the US president, “I do believe it is time for me to have a little chat with Vladimir Putin. This game we are playing is about to spiral out of control, and I’m going to remind that flaky son of a bitch that he’s playing with fire.... I’ve had quite enough.”
The novel ends on a completely unexpected note – shocking, chilling is a more apt description – and forcefully reminds us of the often irresistible attraction of revenge and the damage that a distraught individual can wreak.