A decade has passed since the U.S. lost the War on Terror, the Caliphate rules America, and U.S. insurgents are the terrorists...
Jamal Stone is a man of the Caliphate. He is living an uneasy existence in the West State when he receives a video of his now ten-year-old son, Khalil, who has been missing since the age of three. Jamal is relieved to learn his son is alive, but distraught by the circumstance of the video—his son is being groomed by East State insurgents as an adolescent suicide bomber. Jamal must leave his settled life in the West State and travel three thousand treacherous miles to the East State—Washington D.C.—to rescue his son from violent death. An unflinching novel about the War on Terror, Islamic States of America is first and foremost a tender story about a father looking for his lost son.
Hassan Riaz is a writer and physician. His fiction has appeared in The Antioch Review, Slice Magazine, and Fiction on the Web, and he is the author of the medical thriller, The Vaccine. He lives in Los Angeles. He can found online at hassanriaz.com.
To protect his boy, Stone must cross the Islamic States, enter the war-torn East State, and then somehow shield Khalil from the Caliphate, whose executioners won’t balk at ending the life of a child revolutionary. That’s a gripping plot, though Riaz is up to more than just spinning a tale of what-if? suspense. The novel tours readers through the underbelly of the ISA, showcasing its crime, law enforcement, faith, corruption, and everyday life—passages illuminating the status of women are especially troubling, as is an early scene in which Stone and his MCI partner have nothing to talk about except their wives, as sports and culture are outlawed.
Riaz’s deep interest in how the Caliphate would actually work means that the novel, while crisply told and hard to put down, isn’t always a brisk page-turner. Instead, it’s a richly imagined travelogue, a scarifying plunge into the practicalities and drift of mind of a dark possible future, with fascinating detours, like when Stone joins a raid on an underground drinking den in An-Nas, once Chicago. The tension is strong but also existential: Stone, an American born to a Muslim father, considers himself a man of the Caliphate but doesn’t pray and at times quietly tries to aid victims of its cruelties. The question of what America he’ll fight for haunts this extraordinary novel.
Takeaway: An extraordinary thriller of America under a caliphate, alive with jolting detail.
Great for fans of: Omar El Akkad’s American War, Boualem Sansal’s 2084.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A