The Designer’s Drugs: Monday Night Jihad

America!

Medium:  Literature

Jason Elam and Steve Yohn – Monday Night Jihad

Anno: 2008

I don’t remember ever finding a book with a title this absurd and this appropriate.  In case there was any confusion as to the plot, we’re dealing with a story that combines our country’s two national pastimes – football and counterterrorism – into one awesome package!  Yee-haw!  Does this book already sound like the kind of thing I would groin-punch myself with out of weirdness?  Of course!

A special ops guy turns football star in a fictitious pro league (because apparently the NFL found this idea too “fringe” to carry their prestigious banner).  Then things in America start blowing up.  Then guy goes back to special ops to shine the Lion-O beacon of Christ and kick terrorist butt.  Didn’t they do an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger about this?

By the way, our hero’s name is Riley Covington.  I’m not going to fault the authors for this; I suppose that all the good porno names like Tom Hung and Reid Liberty were taken.

Aside from the sheer ridiculousness of the concept itself, the book suffers from the comparatively smaller drawback of having a case-breaking plot twist that a Mack Truck could drive through.  Seriously, the book is 368 pages, and if the swerve hasn’t been figured out by page fifty, well, there’s a lobotomy joke in there somewhere.

Having vented all that incredulousness, I do want to be fair about the upside of this book.  Starting off at the ground level, I will say that the authors could have made this thing a whole lot worse.  With a title like Monday Night Jihad, it’s easy to envision this as a drooling G.I. Joe fantasy, full of “U.S.A!” pro wrestling chants and square-jaws playing Mushy Cookie on the Qur’an.  And it’s really not.  There’s a great deal of sympathy for just about every character in the book, even for a few of the terrorists involved.  The authors, despite having slanted American perspectives, tried to tell this story from all angles.  The high point of this comes in a face to face confrontation between hero and villain, where both realize that, while they want to understand each other, they simply cannot.  Furthermore, the authors show thoughtfulness in containing their condemnation to violence itself; Monday Night Jihad never becomes a close-eyed rant against Islam.  Ultimately, everyone is human, frightened, and unsure, and this awareness makes a ludicrous idea more sympathetic.  And the action is pretty well done, in a sweet-ass Con Air sort of way.

Still, it’s a book about football and counterterrorism.  Either it will be laughed into obscurity, or it will join the ranks of The Great American Novels.  Myself, I’m kind of hoping for the latter.  But then again, I’m pretty strange.

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