Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Rafael Amadeus Hines has self-admittedly fantasized time and time again about a hero stopping the 9/11 attacks, which he himself witnessed on that fateful day. Ultimately, as a result of his musings he came up with the Sergeant John Bishop character, introducing him to the world in his first novel ever titled Bishop’s War. Though he might be a retired special forces operative, it takes very little time for him to get thrust back into the thick of it, fighting terrorism on domestic and foreign fronts alike through a time which changed America for evermore.
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Rafael Amadeus Hines’ American Hero
When we read of fictional catastrophic events, at the end of the day we can always dissociate ourselves from them, and no matter how convincingly and realistically they are written, we can always tell ourselves none of it was actually real. In my opinion, this is why fictional tragedies will never be able to truly capture real-world ones: at the end of the day, we don’t have to live with them. In recent years, I think most would agree 9/11 to be one of the most horrible human tragedies, and the people are still strongly affected by it to this very day, whether they simply witnessed it happening or lost someone.
Like any heart-wrenching catastrophe, it has fuelled the imagination of many people, making them long for a world where a hero would have risen up to stop this madness at the last second. Rafael Amadeus Hines took his personal musings to the next level of actual literature when he penned his now-critically-acclaimed first novel titled Bishop’s War .
Bishop’s War begins by introducing us to John Bishop, a former special forces operative who just wants to retire in peace with all his war decorations. Once he returns home from Afghanistan, it takes very little time for him to become launched into the treacherous world of terrorism which takes him through a number of different threads he wouldn’t have expected to find.
On top of battling terrorists right at home in New York, he also contends against an extremely powerful and wealthy Afghan warlord, complete with an utterly psychotic billionaire backing him thanks to his connections in the White House. As the stakes keep on escalating even John’s uncle decides to join the fray as all the plot points quickly begin converging together for an explosive finale. Assailed from all sides by seemingly everyone, John and his family are brutally welcomed into a new dawn for Americans.
John Bishop Must Die
For his very first outing in the realms of literature, I would personally qualify John Bishop as a successful introduction. To begin with, while his background is one we’ve already seen a million times, in my opinion the author handles it adeptly enough to make him feel different and not entirely clean cut. Being the nephew of powerful crime family in New York, Bishop’s morals are pushed into a gray area, more often than not to set up some action sequences.
While he wasn’t exactly fascinating or anything of the sort, he was the perfect vehicle for a fast-paced and action-packed story where seemingly every man, woman and child on Earth wants to see John Bishop die. Speaking of all the people who want him dead, there are moments when I had doubts about how well all the different plot threads could actually be developed. After all, it’s difficult to have assassins, terrorists, the police, both current and former government officials thirsting after John’s blood without having it all end up feeling ridiculous.
Once a fighter always a fighter. The fire may grow weaker with time, but it never truly dies. Is this not true?― Rafael Amadeus Hines, Bishop’s War
Thankfully, Rafael Amadeus Hines juggles the stories rather adeptly and while at times their sheer number and intensity does feel a bit overwhelming, for the most part it complements the intense nature and atmosphere of the novel. Additionally, they help to ensure there is a constant stream of action to bombard us with, to the point where by the time you close Bishop’s War you will have had enough action for the month… and I’m saying that in a good way. The action virtually never stops, not until John Bishop is dead, or his enemies.
The Ambiguity of the Internal Battle
While this may definitely be an action thriller above anything else, I felt the author included some personal observations, likely made first-hand over the course of his lifetime. While the bad guys in this novel are indeed bad without all that much to them, the good guys don’t seem all that much better at times, only differentiated by the fact they are hitting them back rather than hitting them first.
And thus we’re constantly in a grey area, witnessing Bishop wage his war while it takes a toll on his hopes and dreams for himself and the country alike. The conflict within him burns as strong and bright as the conflict outside of him, touching on the ideas of vengeance and vigilantism, even if ever-so briefly.
I believe we will see Bishop developed further along this route in future novels, and I believe it to still be a bit too early to give a final judgment on the character. I feel they are developed just well enough for the purposes of this novel, keeping the action moving along at a brisk pace while still making us curious to learn more about them.
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In addition to John himself, we also have his crime family to colour the scenery. As you might imagine, it has quite a few different characters populating the pages, and I’m glad to say most of them remain on the simple side rather than being overwritten into unbelievably-complex characters. The closer we get to them, the harder it becomes to judge them accurately, for despite their criminal ways they harbour many redeeming traits which make them feel like more than just mobsters with good intentions.
The Final Verdict
With all being said and done, Bishop’s War by Rafael Amadeus Hines is about as good of a debut as the author could have hoped for, bringing to life a thrilling action story with an ever-increasing rhythm, piloted by John Bishop whom I hope will become a mainstay character. If you enjoy action books with multiple plotlines, terrorists, corrupt government officials, Afghan warlords, and a bit of the mafia, then I highly recommend you give this book a try.
Rafael Amadeus Hines
Rafael Amadeus Hines is a writer and a native New Yorker and his first novel, titled Bishop’s War, was largely inspired by the people he grew up with over the years. Before becoming an author, Rafael has made a career for himself in the financial and energy markets for over two decades.
Having witnessed the Twin Towers crashing first-hand alongside with his office, Hines has often been enthralled by the idea of a lone hero stopping the attack, a theme which might very well recur in his future writings.