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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Review : The Beijing Conspiracy by Adrian d'Hage

Title : The Beijing Conspiracy
Author : Adrian d'Hage
Publisher : Penguin Australia

ISBN : 9780670029587
No Pages : 525
Published Date : September 2007
Sub-Genre : Action Thriller

Adrian d’Hage’s second novel, The Beijing Conspiracy is a global thriller of monumental proportions much like his debut novel The Omega Scroll. This time he uses the spectre of terrorism to set the pulse quickening, but amps the threat up by including an even more horrifying weapon – that of bioterrorism. The spectacle of the Beijing Olympics looms as the major target of al-Qaeda who issue a warning to the west to either meet their demands or suffer 3 warning blows before a final devastating blow is unleashed.

Dr Khalid Kadeer is a senior al-Qaeda leader, a member of a persecuted Uighur Muslim Chinese minority and a biochemist who is responsible for much of the planning of many of the major terrorist attacks of recent times. His latest warning delivered to the White House calls for the US and her allies to leave the Holy Lands of his people or face the consequences. In this day and age, it’s a threat that is more than credible. His early background at the hands of sadistic Chinese soldiers has fostered a deep-seated hatred and burning desire to strike back at his tormentors.
With the US presidential elections looming, the President doesn’t want to be seen to be pushed around by terrorists, so he takes the advice of his advisors and chooses to ignore the warnings. This will be the first of quite a few mistakes made by a government tainted by bigotry, racism and prejudice, not to mention a misplaced list of priorities. By making the elections the priority he opens the way for the first of the 3 warnings to go ahead.

Meanwhile, significant progress is being made on a project that aims to produce a superbug, a genetically altered organism that joins the smallpox virus with Ebola. If a viable delivery method were to be devised it would result in a potentially devastating biological weapon and, with no cure yet found, the death toll would be unimaginable. The scientific research and development is being conducted inside one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, but the head of the company is an overly ambitious man who is so driven by greed, he sets in motion his own sinister plan.

As if enemies from outside the US are not bad enough, a more insidious threat is being hatched from within. This threat feeds on hatred, paranoia and an unending lust for power. The surprise is that it emanates from one of the most powerful men in the world. Rather than prevent the feared devastating blow that has been promised, he and his accomplices could be unwittingly helping their enemies.

In d’Hage’s fictional world, it would seem that many of the world leaders in power are brainless dimwits, again, not so far from the truth casting our eye around at some of the heads of state gracing the world stage at the moment. Making an overwhelming impression on the decision making processes carried out in the story are figures with strong religious beliefs and, whether those beliefs stem from a Christian or Islamic background, the message is the same, when religious fervour takes over, the results can be unpredictable, even catastrophic.

D’Hage brings the story to consecutive peaks by devising the 3 warning blows before a promised devastating blow. By making each of the so-called warnings pretty damn substantial in their own right, the prospect of the final blow is given considerable significance. It’s a hectic thriller that doesn't hold back on delivering solid action sequences some of which manage to wreak the most devastating damage you can possibly imagine.

However, after a monumental build up, some devastating attacks and disastrous scenes of destruction there promises to be a finale that will batch the early highlights. This doesn’t prove to be the case with a rather subdued ending that is more abrupt than memorable and leaves you feeling slightly deflated rather than with the expected buzz.

The fact that Adrian d’Hage has worked as head of security for the 2000 Sydney Olympics where he was required to come up with possible horror scenarios and then devise ways to counter them makes the convincing nature of this story understandable. His field of expertise lies smack-bang in the centre of chemical and biological attacks, so he really knows what he’s talking about – and it shows in the authoritative voice in which this story is delivered.

The Beijing Conspiracy is your classic action thriller based around the modern day terrorist threat giving a tone of sheer desperation born from outrage and fear. Thrown into the mixing pot is the unknown spectre of microbiological weapons that promise death, not just in the hundreds, but in the thousands or even the millions and this gives the book a twist of monumental proportions. This is the kind of post-911 threat that is completely plausible in light of recent real life attacks.

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