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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Code Blue-An Israeli Dystopia That Seems Too Real

2016 has been an amazing year for dystopias.   There are currently two dystopias that are candidates for my top ten reads of the year, and there may be more by the time 2016 comes to an end.  I believe that this sub-genre has come of age.

 When I was a morose teen in the 1970's, I read nothing but dystopias for a while.   This was a time when the only dystopias that were widely read were 1984, Animal Farm and Brave New World.  There were a number of other dystopias that had been written by science fiction writers.  Most people have still never heard of them. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to be inspired by my reading rather than depressed. As an adult, I only began selectively reading dystopias again relatively recently.  I feel no compulsion to read the most popular dystopias or all their imitators.  I am interested in dystopias that sound unusual and deal with themes that interest me.

Code Blue by Zvika Amit was on a list of indie books from a book promoter seeking reviews.  Even though I agree to review very few books, I always read these solicitations carefully in case I come across something that could be extraordinary.  This novel is an English translation of an Israeli book that takes place in the very near future in which Israel's government is overturned by a military coup that establishes a theocratic dictatorship.   I was so fascinated by the premise of this dystopia that I couldn't wait for the promoter to provide a free copy.  I wanted to get started on it right away, so I purchased it on Amazon.  As you will see, this is an honest review.


When I read this book, I thought the premise was completely original.  I have since learned from a  2005 review of Code Blue in Ha'aretz, an Israeli newspaper, that it had a predecessor.  You can read that Ha'aretz review at Too Close For Comfort .  It deals with reaction to the book in Israel.  I found it highly illuminating.   I investigated the previous Israeli military coup dystopia.  It's called  The Road to Ein Harod  by Amos Kenan.  Based on reviews I read on Goodreads, Kenan's dystopia is apparently a reflective literary novel awash in allegory.  Some readers found it inaccessible.   Code Blue isn't at all similar.  It's a suspenseful narrative with a great deal of verisimilitude written in the style of a thriller.

Gavrush, the main protagonist, illustrates the dangers of West Bank settlement expansion.   He is a relatively moderate West Bank settler compared to the  coalition of extremist zealots that he assembles to bring about the coup.   Gavrush is a well-developed  character whose flaws are very credible.  Gavrush believes that he is acting in the best interests of Israel, but his primary motivation is a selfish one.  I also think that he has a myopic perspective since he didn't foresee the consequences of his actions.   This makes him typical of political leaders.  The unnamed Prime Minister whose overthrow Gavrush plots, has far more stature because he comes to understand that the West Bank settlements aren't viable in the long-term.  On the other hand, he doesn't foresee the short-term consequences of his policy proposals. 

Gavrush's mistress, Rinat, is also an important viewpoint character.    The Ha'aretz review has a dismissive attitude toward her, but I respectfully disagree. I thought that Rinat was intelligent, courageous and principled.   It may very well be the Rinats of Israel that will pull the country back from the precipice.   Those who say that Code Blue is about the ineffectiveness of those who share Rinat's views should re-read the book from beginning to end.  They should also consider the success of Gandhi.  Non-violent resistance isn't always ineffective. 

Although I recommend Code Blue, this edition wasn't exactly perfect.  The English translation of Code Blue was occasionally awkward probably due to lax editing standards .  I found one error very noticeable.  Apparently, an editor decided to initiate a global change of every incidence of "I am" and "you are" to I'm and you're.   This wasn't always appropriate.  There were numerous emphatic uses of I am and you are that should never have been modified.  Over the course of my reading, I began to find these infelicitous contractions annoying.   This problem could have been ameliorated by a thorough review of the manuscript by a native English speaker before publication.






  1. Dear Shomeret
    I read carefully the review you wrote about my book. I appreciate your analysis and understanding of the book in general, the plot and the characters.
    I was very impressed by your great understanding of the background in which the plot takes place.
    You're right, of course, about editing errors. We checked and found that this was the result of a mistake for which an indefinite version was published. This version has been replaced as a result of your review. I thank you for the comment. I will be glad to send you a "right"copy to the address you'll give me.
    Zvika Amit

  2. Thank you for your comments. I try to research my reviews thoroughly before posting them. I will contact you about the updated version.