It’s 2043, and America is a backwater, divided between the Islamic States of America and the Bible Belt, formed out of the old Confederacy. New Orleans and parts of Florida are under water. Canada and the Atzlan Empire (formerly Mexico) are nibbling at the edges of the former USA. Meanwhile, China and Russia vie for supremacy.
This is the dystopian backdrop for Robert Ferrigno’s second futuristic thriller, Sins of the Assassin. It’s three years after the events of Prayers for the Assassin, and Rakkim Epps, the Islamic Republic’s blunt instrument, is back. This time he and a genetically enhanced super-nerd named Leo are infiltrating the Bible Belt, hoping to intercept long-buried superweapon in Tennessee before a warlord known only as “The Colonel” gets it.
Meanwhile, an extremely old and wealthy Pakistani, known only as The Old One, is on the run in luxury, hiding on the sea aboard a super-liner. He has sent an operative into the Republic’s capital for a 9/11-style strike that will shake the Republic and the Belt to their cores, allowing him to take over. The Old One, kept alive and somewhat young by expensive medical science, sees himself as the head of a global caliphate, a fortold Muslim leader who would bring the world to Allah. Never mind that the hundred-and-twenty-year-old man is also a dirty old man. He is The Old One, and no one questions him, except maybe Rakkim and his wife, Sarah, who exposed and foiled him in Prayers.
Sins skirts the edges of science fiction, but uses only a few elements to create a horrifying future that’s a little too familiar for comfort. It’s a bleak landscape where the only thing that’s truly changed is the state of decay America is in at this point. It’s a Chinese-ruled world, and neither the Christian-dominated south nor the Muslim America are exactly the paradises believers of either faith today would really care to see.
No, this is not a story about enhanced superwarriors (though there are those), geeks with amped-up brains, or spaced-based infrastructure crumbling above people’s heads. Rakkim Epps is an earthy James Bond serving a dying nation (two, actually, as reunification of the Americas is tossed in at one point). He is a faithful man, but not a dogmatic one, with little patience for blind belief. His rivals in the story, a psychotic hillbilly preacher turned guerilla commander, the Colonel, and the Belt’s answer to the Republic’s enhanced warriors, the Fedayeen, all earn Rakkim’s respect. The exception is Belt warrior Gravenholz, a sadistic traitor looking to score off the highest bidder.
But if Rakkim is Bond, the Old One is from another epic, Star Wars. He is Palpatine, controlling and manipulating events from behind the scenes for his own puposes, using every contingency to his advantage. Ferrigno does a terrific job pitting Rakkim against the Old One even when Rakkim is unaware of it. It sets the stage nicely for a climatic third installment in the trilogy.