Daniel Silva Goes All-Out Political in The Order
If you love both Israel and espionage thrillers, Daniel Silva has been your go-to novelist since he introduced Gideon Allon as The Kill Artist twenty years ago.
We first met Gideon as a newly-recruited Mossad agent who tracked and assassinated the Black September murderers of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
In roughly a book a year, Gideon built his close-knit team of Mossad operatives; became director of the Office; overcame heart-wrenching personal struggles, and became a famous Renaissance art restorer, which was his cover career. Daniel Silva has been a brilliant suspense and historical fiction writer.
But The Order, the 20th book in the series, departs from the winning formula. Silva has written a political polemic and a sizable portion of his grassroots fans are vowing never to buy his books again.
Silva can be respected for standing up for his beliefs. The Order is a highly personal novel, and Silva writes from his heart about Catholicism, Fascism and Anti-Semitism. But his beliefs are extreme, and so is the reaction.
The "Silva Doctrine"
The "Silva Doctrine", so to speak, says the Catholic Church was corrupt from its inception, with Church fathers knowingly framing Jews for the death of Jesus to ingratiate themselves with the Romans. This "longest hatred" re-surfaced when the Church aligned with the Third Reich and re-surfaces today as Church traditionalists align with fascist leaders to stoke anti-Semitism among right wing mobs. The book's hero reformers want to turn politically left, return Christianity to its roots and reconcile with Judaism by repudiating the Gospel accounts.
If only Silva made his case in a non-fiction book or essay! Or perhaps a personal memoire, given his own conversion from Catholicism to Judaism.
Instead, his novel sounds like it was written by a political science committee. The plot lines are really hard to follow, and long passages are actually boring – an astounding feat, considering his previous nail biters. What's worse, he undercuts his own message with cartoonish characters who speak in political talking points – including Gabriel.
Good Guys and Bad Guys
The Order is fourth in a series-within-a-series that concerns the Church. Like the previous three —The Confessor, The Messenger and The Fallen Angel—it features Pietro Lucchesi, a.k.a. Pope Paul VII, and his closest aide, Archbishop Luigi Donati. They and their like-minded reformers are socialist-learning, Jesuit-influenced, liberation theology sympathetic, social activists in the mold of the real Pope Francis.They are Silva's good guys.
The bad guys are Church traditionalists, but in The Order they are much more evil than that. The book title takes its name from a fascistic secret society of Church leaders who will stop at nothing, including murder, to maintain their power and authority. They are in cahoots with knuckle walking, right-wing presidents and prime ministers whose goal is to similarly maintain power and authority. The whole cabal is financed by a crazed, Nazi industrialist who idolizes Hitler and lives in a replica of his home, the Berghof. You can almost hear "Springtime for Hitler" playing in the background as you read this, except Silva isn't trying to be funny.
In the world of The Order, this Church-Fascist cabal is responsible for today's anti-Semitism. It's not propagated by Muslim or Palestinian terrorists, nor is it supported by U.N. bias, BDS activism, Black Lives Matter platforms or anything remotely related to the political left. Rather, Jews and Muslims are joined as victims of Christian skinhead thugs who are manipulated by the Church-Fascist brotherhood.
The political bad guys are cartoonish caricatures of right wing world leaders. For example, there's a Donald Trump doppelganger with a "ridiculous comb over" who incites "thuggish supporters" with tweets about "fake news" and considers himself "a populist, not a fascist". This "incompetent subliterate" shakes hands with an "oily paw".
Gabriel sounds like a CNN commentator as he blames the Trump-double for a worldwide pandemic:
"Will he listen to medical experts, or will he think he knows better? Will he tell his people the truth, or will he promise that a vaccine and lifesaving treatments are just around the corner? He'll blame the Chinese and the immigrants and emerge stronger than ever," Gabriel says.