by Daniel Swanson
Daniel Swanson grew up in Japan, where he also went to Sophia University in Tokyo and got his M.A. in Japanese History, then taught History for twenty-two years in the country. He has traveled in over sixty-five countries, though not North Korea. He now resides on the Big Island of Hawaii where he worked on a Kona coffee farm as a tour guide before retiring last year. He is the author of two children’s books, Carl the Chameleon and Carl the Chameleon Goes to School, both available on Amazon.
Nuclear Blues by Bradley K. Martin is an intriguing work of fiction that centers on a scheme by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to manipulate Christian fundamentalists into helping him manufacture and ship nuclear missiles to Iran for use against Israel. In the process, Kim plans to make a killing with trades in financial derivatives by betting on the worldwide panic that would ensue.
Bradley Martin is a foreign correspondent and historian who, having cemented his reputation with the earlier non-fiction work, Under the Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty, is considered one of the foremost authorities on contemporary North Korea. Martin grew up in Georgia and attended a fundamentalist church in his youth. Quoting liberally from the Bible and weaving End Times theology into the narrative, he creates a chilling story of a famous fundamentalist preacher who hopes to kick-start the final apocalypse and the second coming of Christ.
Nuclear Blues starts with an American journalist who is visiting North Korea as a tourist, and who is shot and killed by North Korean border guards while making an attempt to escape at the DMZ from the North to the South. But why would the journalist make such a daring, dangerous attempt when he supposedly could have left the country with his tour group? To answer this question his friend and fellow journalist visits the country himself, first as part of a tour group and then once more as a professor teaching at a Christian university in North Korea, a university that includes a faculty couple who had previously worked at the Creation Museum, as well as a new faculty member from Bob Jones University. It is at this university where the protagonist discovers the dangerous games being played by Kim Jong-un and the fundamentalist preacher both journalists had known since their youth in Mississippi.
This just might seem too much. A fundamentalist university in North Korea? While this might not seem like a plausible plot device, what many people don’t know is that there really is a North Korean university – Pyongyang University of Science and Technology – that is actually staffed and funded by Christian evangelicals. This makes the book’s Orwellian scenario seem realistic.
Nuclear Blues is easy to read, fun, interesting, eye-opening and scary all at the same time. What Martin does here is interweave the unpredictability of the North Korean regime with Christian fundamentalists’ unshakable belief in their End-Times theology. The result is a plot that becomes all too real, all too plausible. In fact, Nuclear Blues is a powerful and chilling reminder that we live in a precarious and dangerous world, with an overabundance of nuclear weapons, despotic rulers and unstable regimes, and fundamentalist theologies that seem to welcome Apocalypse.
I highly recommend Nuclear Blues.