By the Rivers of Babylon by Nelson DeMille (1978) – BR00014 (2001) – 🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸
Plot or Premise
Peace in the Middle East is almost assured and two Concordes fly to New York with delegates for final negotiations. Terrorists try to derail the peace conference by planting bombs on board and taking the passengers hostage. After one plane is destroyed, killing all on board, the second plane is forced to land near Babylon. At the last minute, the hostages manage to escape to the top of a small hill from which they attempt to defend against the terrorists through several days of sorties, knowing that the military probably doesn’t know where they are and therefore can’t swoop in and rescue them.
What I Liked
Long before there was Clancy, there was DeMille. This book takes the international realm and stands it on its ear — there are (excruciating) details of the relations between the characters on both sides of the peace conference who are forced to work together to fight the terrorists. In addition, the battle tactics are first-rate, the writing is almost perfect, and the story is superb as the “hostages” fight in small groups with every weapon they have — gas bombs from the plane’s fuel tanks, sounds from a war movie blasted over speakers to simulate larger weaponry, etc.
What I Didn’t Like
There are a LOT of characters at the start of this book and it is hard to keep track of them all. Up until the end, there are too many small sub-plots — some are good, and necessary to flesh out the experience, but not all of them. There are fewer characters by the end though and it helps speed up the plotting. However, the ending is a little over-the-top, resembling a scene from a Die Hard movie more than keeping with the slightly more realistic tone of the rest of the book. As well, there is a meeting between the hostage-leaders and the terrorist-leader that is absolutely surreal. The likelihood of both parties treating it like a military battle with truces, etc., is virtually nil but it was at least interesting to read.
The Bottom Line
DeMille is the master of the game.