Like his earlier novels A State of Disobedience and A Desert Called Peace, Tom Kratman didn't write his new novel Caliphate merely to provide diverting science fiction entertainment. Once again he has offered readers a book with a message, in this case delivered as part of an action-filled story of a dystopian near future, reminiscent of some of the work of fellow Baen author John Ringo.
The political themes which the book explores are similar to those which dominate his other novels: the conflict between Islam and western civilization, the degeneracy and hypocrisy of international socialism, and the struggle to preserve liberty in a hostile environment. His vision of the future is clearly informed by his experiences in the military and in the middle east, and in this case augmented with what appears to be some substantial research on demographic trends and recent events.
This is his fourth novel, and shows the benefits of experience. The story and characters are stronger and better defined than in his earlier novels and the background is more believable and better integrated into the story. More than in his other novels, in Caliphate Kratman presents a world which is believable as a logical outgrowth of current trends and events.
Caliphate is set about 100 years in the future, in a world where Islam has come to dominate Europe as well as much of Asia and Africa. It basically focuses on three characters, an American soldier (Hamilton) and a brother (Hans) and sister (Petra) living in Muslim-dominated Europe. The emphasis on story and character is stronger than in Kratman's earlier books, and the plot does boil down at its most basic level to the classic combination of romance and action where the hero saves the girl from the forces of evil.
This basic story structure is used to explore the setting and express Kratman's underlying theme of the inhumane character of Islam as the basis for a society and a government, as well as touching on some of the compromises which Americans would have to make in a world where the choice was made to disengage and allow the rest of the world to proceed along the course which is already being charted towards disaster. Petra ends up being sold into slavery, while her brother becomes a Janissari serving the European caliphate. Hamilton, the US soldier who is basically our hero, goes through various trials and ends up as an embittered covert operative who finds himself in a position to save them - and of course he falls in love with Petra - during a mission inside Islamic Europe.