Friday, June 20, 2008

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Book Review: 2020 Vision

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

2020 Vision is a new Jewish religious-oriented fiction novel by Roy S. Neuberger. Set in the near future, it builds a picture of a world at seems at peace. Terrorism has stopped, Islam has integrated, the West is working together against environmental concerns.

Then the unthinkable happens. The story begins with the primary character, an older Jewish man living with his wife on Long Island (NY, USA) sitting at home when the attacks begin. After a decade of 'integration' and preparation, the 'peaceful' Islamic population stages hundreds of simultaneous major terror attacks across New York, the whole United States, and (we find out later) the whole Western world.

In that moment, Western civilization falls. Paralyzed by the destruction of modern facilities (communications, electrical grids, transportation systems), society enters an instant meltdown.

But that's not the story, that's the context. The story is of an older Jewish couple on Long Island's attempt to make it to their grown children in Lakewood, and from there to try to make it to Israel. Bridges are down, roads are blocked, people are panicking, and rogue elements of society are taking advantage.

We follow them as they hop on their bicycles and make their way across Long Island, facing challenge and threat with faith in Hashem. Through almost miraculous circumstances, they make it to Staten Island, where they almost die from the effects of one of the terror attacks, and finally to New Jersey. Meeting up with their children and a larger group of Jewish families trying to escape the deteriorating urban situation, they begin a journey to a possible gateway to Israel...

The story is exciting! The author does a wonderful job of presenting dangerous circumstances, and giving us the character's inner thoughts and faith as he and they struggle through them. It does not detract from the excitement, it enhances it. The book is a real page turner.

However, late in the story it veers in two odd directions. First, journey choices are made that lead the group into the worst of situations. The choices are both odd, as well as lacking in the detail of previous parts of the journey. The author seemed to be trying to make a point, but lacked the surrounding environment information he had on the earlier parts. That portion is much more hollow for that lack. Second, for the ending the story veers completely off track. Almost like the author just got tired or felt he couldn't sustain the excitement, it just kind of cuts off with a pat ending. (My teenage daughter disagrees on this point, she thinks the ending was very climactic.)

While those are some weaknesses, they don't detract from a very exciting story. The book takes you on a journey of excitement, danger, and faith. A story that, G-d forbid, is not so impossible.

I recommend it, and consider it appropriate from bar/bat mitzvah age on up. It can be found online here or here.

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