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The Afghan by Frederick Forsyth
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The Afghan (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Frederick Forsyth

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1,188286,757 (3.32)7
Member:mdortch
Title:The Afghan
Authors:Frederick Forsyth
Info:Signet (2007), Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Your library
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The Afghan by Frederick Forsyth (2007)

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### Review

The Forsyth Formula, al-Qaeda version: A sort of post-9/11 apocalyptic western, this thriller pits White Guys against Black Turbans, the daring forces of freedom versus the jihadi doers of evil.Should Hasbro ever decide it needs a new G.I. Joe, Mike Martin's their man. The latest action figure from the Forsyth franchise (Avenger, 2003, etc.), he's a craggy Scot summoned from a wee bit of rest and relaxation at his Hampshire retreat back into the endless global fray. The listening department of Pakistan's Counter-Terrorism Center has, through cell-phone surveillance, unearthed a plot. One of Osama bin Laden's financiers has already, clutching his laptop, hurled himself from a balustrade to protect the plans. Hi-tech British cunning retrieves the info, which reveals schemes for "Al Isra," the biggest potential attack yet. To penetrate al-Qaeda, U.K./U.S. intelligence makes a mole of Martin, passing him off as Izmat Khan, ex-Taliban bigwig serving time in Gitmo. Mirror images of each other, the men are archetypal warriors, Khan a stoic Afghan outraged by the Russian invasion of his country and conned by desperation into bin Laden's service, Martin a 25-year veteran of killing missions-the Falklands, the Balkans, the Middle East. Plus, passing for Khan is easy for multilingual Martin, son of an oil-company executive stationed in Iraq. He even looks the part: "olive-skinned, black-haired and eyed, lean and very hard of physique." Martin's mission earns him martyrdom, but only after all kinds of derring-do involving a ship called The Countess of Richmond, characters screaming "Eject, eject!" and a cameo appearance by John Negroponte.Gun-club porn-packed with stodgily accurate descriptions of weapons and acronymic slang. Hardly subtle, just bang-bang galore. (Kirkus Reviews)

### Literary Review

Exciting, frightening, instructive.
  Hans.Michel | Sep 13, 2013 |
The first two thirds were good: interesting and fast-paced. The ending became awkward and contrived but, overall, it was a decent read. ( )
  barringer | Apr 2, 2013 |
The ability to describe – convincingly and in detail – how skilled and knowledgeable people do things has always been Frederick Forsyth’s particular literary talent. The scene in Day of the Jackal where the assassin methodically adjusts the sights on his newly acquired, custom-made rifle involves one deliberately underdeveloped character and no suspense at all. Nonetheless, it’s riveting (and, even after decades, memorable) because Forsyth takes his time and describes the process step by methodical step . . . taking the reader inside a secret world that would otherwise be closed to them. The trick works so well that, in The Dogs of War, an extended episode involving the smuggling of small arms across the French border is as gripping as the use of them, in the book’s climax, to stage a coup in a small African country.

The Afghan has moments like that – you learn a great deal about the shipping business; about how cargoes are bought, sold, and documented; and about the tactics of modern-day pirates – and they’re as interesting as ever. Unfortunately, the story wrapped around them is far less interesting than Forsyth’s best work.

The plot (like all Forsyth’s plots) is easily summarized: A retired British special-forces officer with an uncanny ability to pass as an Afghan is infiltrated into an Islamic terrorist network, posing as a recently “released” high-ranking prisoner, in a desperate attempt to disrupt an impending attack whose timing and target remain unknown. It moves (again, like all his plots) with reasonable speed, but its movements are far from graceful. The pacing is awkward, the clichés abundant (the veteran operative lured out of quiet retirement for One Last Job, the hero and villain who share An Undisclosed Bond, the complicated ritual the hero must perform Exactly Right or be revealed), and the ending oddly unsatisfying. The need to keep the exact nature of the attack a secret from the reader limits Forsyth’s opportunity to craft his trademark “how they do it” scenes, and one mid-book plot development depends on not one but two coincidences that beggar belief.

The end result of all this is a book that carries you along and keeps you entertained, but never for a moment convinces you that any of it is real. It’s a routine, sometimes clunky thriller only occasionally enlivened by Forsyth’s gift for describing complex processes – not, as in his earlier work, an immersive experience that leaves you with a suspicion that “this might have happened.” ( )
  ABVR | Mar 15, 2013 |
Pacy thriller, well researched and full of obscure details, which helps you overlook some flaws. ( )
  edwardsgt | Jun 5, 2012 |
This is just the kind of book you would expect from Frederick Forsyth - thoroughly researched, good build up of character personalities, engaging style, excellent writing style which makes the book totally

un-put-downable!
However it is on his research that I would like to make a point or two, though probably minor indiscrepancies. India has been mentioned thrice in the book and twice in the context of Kerala, the other being that the book’s protagonist had an Indian grandmother.
He mentions Kerala in India as being a hotbed of Islamic terrorists, once having being a hotbed for communism.
Well the communism part is right- but I hope he knows that communism came to Kerala through an election, not as a revolution or a coup in other parts of the world - so it had to be a sort of popular communism and not the darker meaning his words intone.
Kerala being a hotbed of islamic terrorism is a new idea to me. Kerala has never witnessed a terrorist act. People generally respect the law, are highly educated and ever vigilant. It’s commmon for complete strangers while travelling, to ask each other their destination, their native town, about their close family, even their married status, and most people reach out to each other in times of distress.
The other time he mentions a couple of Indians from Kerala as being part of a pirate gang on the high seas. Likely.
The third instance he mentions Keralites is of them being part of a crew of a ship hijacked by terrorists. Here there is a mention of them being "good Christians" and "trusted". Well religion is never an issue in Kerala and people of every caste and creed enthusiastically celebrate each others festivals and intermingle amongst themselves as family. If Forsyth wants to hint that Christians anywhere in the world can be trusted, they be Indians or whatever, then he is wrong. Terrorism and religion cannot be interlinked. Especially in the context of Kerala.
These may be minor flaws but I wanted to keep the record straight through this forum, though of course the book was fiction.
I would say his book is good except for the feeling one gets that he is being partial to his own culture as compared to other cultures.
Well todays reader is cosmopolitan and his book would be read by almost anybody in any part of the world.
His book is a classic I agree, but reading trends are changing and the audience is a global one. Forsyth cannot belittle a country or a culture with prejudiced notions, marginalizing some of his readers that way.
English books are no longer for the English, by the English and of the English! ( )
  Mattiz | Nov 8, 2011 |
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Frederick Forsythprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Meerman, Jacquessecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my wife, Sandy, as ever
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If the young Talib bodyguard had known that making the cell phone call would kill him, he would not have done it.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451221834, Mass Market Paperback)

When British and American intelligence discover an al Qaeda operation in the works, they enlist undercover imposter Colonel Mike Martin to pass himself off as Taliban commander Izmat Khan. But nothing prepares Martin for the dark and shifting world into which he is about to enter-or the terrible things he will find there.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:46 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

When British and American intelligence catch wind of a major Al Qaeda operation in the works, they instantly galvanize--but to do what? They know nothing about it: the what, where, or when. They have no sources in Al Qaeda, and it's impossible to plant someone. Impossible, unless-- The Afghan is Izmat Khan, a five-year prisoner of Guantanamo Bay and a former senior commander of the Taliban. The Afghan is also Colonel Mike Martin, a twenty-five-year veteran of war zones around the world--a dark, lean man born and raised in Iraq. In an attempt to stave off disaster, the intelligence agencies will try to do what no one has ever done before--pass off a Westerner as an Arab among Arabs.--From publisher description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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