Steve Alten’s, The Shell Game, The First 911 Novel

“Imagination is the voice of daring. If there is anything God-like about God, it is that. He dared to imagine everything,” Henry Miller intoned, reflecting in Sexus. Miller, accused of obscenity in one of history’s most obscene moments, World War II, was criticized for his graphic sexual content, particularly in The Tropic of Cancer, a novel that would shock no one today. Any and all varieties of sexual behavior are freely available for viewing when one plugs into the collective mind via the internet. One doesn’t need imagination or even the ability to read.

Still, child porn, snuff scenarios, and the intimate details of torture as practiced by criminal organizations and our national security establishment are routinely redacted from public awareness as a check against our spiraling descent into depravity and political enlightenment. Henry Miller, who believed in something called “perversion”, did not intend that his small assault against the hypocrisy of Victorian sexual mores should spearhead a broad attack on the moral foundation of human culture itself, but there it is! First you jack off, then you inhale some innocent reefer and before you know it you’re selling pre-pubescent girls to oily Saudi Royals for a handsome profit. And boys, too.

Miller was correct, there is such a thing as perversion, but like obscenity, it is difficult to define in a strictly sexual context. Is sodomy or cunnilingus a perversion? Should the community of S&M practitioners be sanctioned? Was the Prophet Mohammad’s desire for a nine year old girl a perversion? Is a doting mother a pervert if she masturbates her year old infant son?

Considering Steve Alten’s description of a terrorist nuclear attack on Los Angeles, I realized that there was another scenario that filled me with a similar disgust and revulsion: the exploitation, rape, and murder of a small child by a sexual predator. The shock and awe of a nuclear explosion so impressive to Robert Oppenheimer that he was inspired to quote the Bhagavad-Gita is to me just disgusting pornography. It is no more than perversion on a large scale, the rape and murder of many innocents in a colossal orgasm of death.

Stripping away the veil that once concealed and obscured the true range of human sexual behavior was just the beginning of the revelations of the American character to itself and the secret sexual smorgasbord is the least of it. Pious defenders of public morality and the status quo are perennially outraged by the 16th Century writings of Niccolo Machiavelli in The Prince because his prescriptions for power are largely amoral recipes of deceit, subterfuge, and murder. Prior to the rise of modern constitutional republics, people were not impressed if their rulers were corrupt, but only if they weren’t. The Constitution and republican governments then endowed elected rulers with a presumption of innocence they never had and great expectations for their performance.

The people trusted elected rulers far more than those imposed by divine right or military coup. The Revolution of 1776 inaugurated a new age of gullibility as government by the people and for the people gradually and ineluctably over 200 years withdrew behind a veil of secrecy. Today the patriotic guardians of public morality, paid propagandists and spin doctors for the most part, spreading fictions about good government and the integrity of public “servants”, wage war against the growing ranks of conspiracy theorists who threaten to pull away the veil.

In 2008, the American people are more dangerously naïve than they ever were in the 18th Century, their imagination for evil dangerously circumscribed and manipulated so that the threat to national security seems to always come from without, never from within. The smiley face of the elected government conceals the dark faces of those never elected and the people live in a politically repressed condition like hysterical Victorian virgins haunted by nuclear nightmares and the self-righteous psychosis of the Book of Revelation. Like children never taught to be wary of strangers, they are easy victims to patriotic political predators who play on their fears with promises of security and stimulus payments.

Political thrillers are the dirty books for today’s politically repressed. Unlike many novelists in this genre who regularly make the best seller list, Steve Alten integrates fact and fiction so closely that students of 911 will not be offended by any misrepresentations of the reality of that event, unless they take issue with Mike Ruppert’s Crossing the Rubicon. Unlike other popular writers whom one suspects are working for the Public Affairs Office of the CIA, Alten does not represent the “intelligence community” as an altruistic public service group, but rather as a cozy deny of ideological vipers. In the complex shadow world of black operations, he deftly and believable depicts the machinations of sociopathic agents, the serial rapists of the rule of law and the political perverts who carry out the dirty deeds from which the righteous virtual political reality on display before the American public is constructed.

Lovers of fine literature will likely sneer at the heroic dimensions of Alten’s protagonist, former gridiron star, Ashley “Ace” Futrell, and his super human capacity to take a lickin’ but come back kickin’, but to these I say, let down your hair! He’s demonstrably human insofar as his beloved wife, Kelli, a devoted Company girl, successfully deceived him throughout their long married life and continued to manipulate him from beyond the grave. He’s not half as bad as Tom Clancy’s two dimensional embodiment of patriotism, family values, and American exceptionalism, Jack Ryan.

We’re not dealing here with propaganda and feel good pulp, the soporific fare of the major media conglomerates. The Shell Game is hard core didactic fiction, a necessary and very skillfully rendered lesson for the American public. It’s also a page-turner, a thought provoker, and no cheap trick. According to the author, “Two long years of research went into this project; key bits of information were provided to me along the way by concerned fans of mine in the military, the oil industry, and the political arena, and by individuals who have simply suffered far too much. Some of the things they have told me have given me nightmares, and, in fact, this entire project has taxed my nerves to the point of permanent damage. (Four months before the book was published, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.)

“When we are the monsters in the story, then the horror becomes a little too real.”

Joseph Danison is a remodeling contractor and a novelist. He lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina near the French Broad River, north of Asheville. He can be contacted at: Read other articles by Joseph, or visit Joseph's website.

4 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Carl Nelson said on March 28th, 2008 at 12:33pm #

    I’m fascinated and well-read in 911 Truth and Peak Oil subjects both, but ‘The Shell Game’ is nothing more than a formulaic construction of pulp fiction. It is instantly forgettable. The tone of the writing is low-calibre. The essential ideas involved in 911 Truth and Peak Oil are not explored well at all. The novel completely fails to warn, educate or prompt the reader’s deeper reflection.

    I think I must be handicapped for having developed an appreciation for the art form of telling a story with depth, intelligence and detail – because, in comparison to well-crafted literature, Alten’s plot and style are little more than script-jottings for a
    second-rate action film proposal.

    Each “chapter” is no more than about 2-3 pages. Short as they are, chapters are even further broken up into widely seperated scenes of a few short paragraphs, each one irritatingly written in the present tense (the constant one-dimensional drone of present tense is what makes this pulp read like a template for a cheap movie).

    A fragmented, jumbled story-style actually works in literature when each of the segments has enough crafted personality to survive for more than a few milliseconds in the reader’s mind. When crafted properly, the fragments of such a story are pieced
    together in the reader’s mind like a puzzle being solved – until the denouement when suddenly everything becomes clear. However, Alten abuses this writing style to stultifying extremes. He doesn’t even bother to create a puzzle, instead he produces a kaleidoscopic shattering of broken story shards that fails to live up to its promise as a “window” through
    which readers may examine the murk of our mysterious recent political history. The fractured style of the novel itself creates a disjointed shell game of story line that buries any hope for clearer perception of the deep politics behind 911 or Peak Oil . I surmise that Alten employed the fragmented style of “The Shell Game” in order to hide his inability to create a sense of authenticity.

    “The Shell Game” is touted as a “political thriller” but the novel does not possess any political intelligence – nor wit, nor any superior background knowledge of how the real military industrial complex works, nor of how a shadow government MIGHT have
    conceivably conducted a false-flag psyop on American soil. But, you know what? The book DOES have excellent cover art. The picture on the cover with the words “The Shell Game” emblazoned over it, is about the most politically intelligent thing in (or on) the novel. One doesn’t need to crack it open to learn much more than what the graphic designer accomplished.

    Let’s look at one of “The Shell Game’s” story fragments. At one point, the protagonist, Ace Futrell, takes a plane to Riyadh, SA in order to enter a large bank. He plans to surreptiously insert a CD-ROM containing Promis software into an ordinary desk
    computer found on the the bank’s main customer service floor.

    This Promis software on the CD-ROM will infiltrate the bank’s money centers around the world (and those of other banks too), stealing billions (even trillions) of dollars (from only the bad guys’ accounts, of course) for the express purpose of funding clean
    energy alternatives to fossil fuels thereby defeating the evil US political establishment, American oil cartels and other bad actors. This is the kind of plot one might find in a cartoon! Especially since none of the prior story dealt with Ace’s ability to program the Promis software to do what he desired it to do.

    When Ace gets into the bank in Riyadh, he is greeted by a Saudi bank manager who queries Ace about his business objectives in the country. Ace says that he is engaged ina $2 billion/yr sports memorabilia business and produces one of his company’s latest products – a piece of gum “that will give you the freshest breath in the bank”. He urges the bank manager to try a piece.

    “Al-Kuwaiz unwraps it. Hesitates, then pops the yellow rectangle into his mouth. The gum is laced with Burrundanga, a soluble powder better known in Columbia as Zombie Dust. Made from the Borrachera plant, Burrundanga has been called the world’s most dangerous drug as it leaves its victims in a virtual coma, preventing the brain from recording any and all memory until it wears off hours later.”

    Make no mistake, there had been no previous reference to Burrundanga poison or Ace’s ability to obtain such a substance! Ace is just somehow able to produce it right there in the story! It’s like Looney Toons cartoons, where Dawg has the uncanny ability to suddenly produce a shotgun from behind his back to blast ol’ Foghorn Leghorn’s beak, sending it spinning around his head. This is just one bloody awful example of bad story construction in Alten’s trashy novel.

    “Ace removes the CD-ROM from the John Lennon’s Greatest Hits case, along with the Yankee’s yearbook. Sliding his chair next to Al-Kuwaiz, he feigns reading the yearbook to the comatose manager as his eyes dart to the monitor. Casually, he leans under the desk, opening the computer hard drive’s CD tray. He quickly positions the CD-ROM containing the Promis worm
    inside, then closes the drawer.

    A command pops up in Arabic, Using the mouse, he double-clicks on the prompter, his heart pounding as the timer bar pops up, signalling that the worm is downloading.

    Ace checks his watch: 10:38 a.m. Referring again to the yearbook as if it is the Koran, Ace pretends to point out passages to his Saudi Arabian zombie, silentlyurging the downloading bar to move faster–

    –unaware that above his head, mounted in the ceiling behind a mirrored decoration, the bank’s security camera is recording everything.”

    Later in the story, billions of dollars start disappearing from villainous huge bank accounts all over the world because of the Promis worm that Ace loaded onto the bank manager’s desktop PC – to benefit clean energy industries, notably E85 corn ethanol!

    One thing is for sure: with authors like Alten around, we’ll never run short of corn! and we all know how bloody awful a solution E85 corn ethanol is to our energy problems! How very thoughtful of Alten to pull that already-proven-worthless solution out of his ass for us.

    Sorry people, “The Shell Game” is a worthless book, even in it’s formulaic way. Maybe someday a more inspired writer will step up and produce a more worthy piece of historically-based fiction that explores the genuinely interesting and ominous piece of history we have been living through since the year 2000.

    Before reading it, I wrote an email to George Kenney of suggesting that he contact Steve Alten to do an interview. Kenney has done programs covering both 911 and Peak Oil in the past. However, Kenney wrote back saying essentially the same thing – that he had bought a copy of “The Shell Game” and found the writing style “not his cup of tea”. So I hardly think that I am alone in my criticism.

  2. Bob Jeremiah said on March 28th, 2008 at 11:48pm #

    After reading David Ray Griffin’s scholarly books and expecting this to be a 9/11 book which will promote 9/11 truth , I’m not so sure.

    I feel the overall effect is to confuse the reader. Alten still points to Muslims as bad guys (slave traders, sexual perverts and torturers), and blows enough smoke to further cloud probable Israeli Mossad, and Zionist Neocons’ complicity in the 9/11 attacks and subsequent cover-up.

    Beyond the criticisms of style and content, the book has been overhyped. There will soon be plenty copies cheaply available at thrift stores across America.

  3. Joseph Danison said on March 29th, 2008 at 8:52am #

    The significance of Alten’s novel is not in its literary merit or even its singular elucidation of 911 truth, but in the simple fact that a popular novelist would dare to tackle the subject in the first place. My hope is that Steve Alten’s effort will inspire other novelists to develop the inside job theme and move it into the mainstream where it might eventually translate into a film script and otherwise gain some political traction. The virtual reality of the official view is a flimsy disguise that can be easily stripped away.

    I have to agree with Bob Jeremiah that Alten doesn’t fairly represent Islamic views or the role of Israel. He does support the false concept of the war on terror and he could have benefited from reading Chalmers Johnson. On the other hand the Saudis are thoroughly corrupt and his depiction of the Royals is justified. They do not reflect the Arab street.

  4. bebe said on May 30th, 2008 at 5:54pm #

    maybe i’m the only one who was moved by the book, but i have had dreams years ago about what will happen when we run out of oil or drinkable water. chaos follows.people(esp. in cities) will go crazy b/c they can’t get food or water, so they, in desperation will unlawfully try to take from others. all you have to do is imagine the worst case scenerio–it will happen!