(March 10, 2018 / New York Jewish Voice) Gary Morgenstein’s fifth novel ‘A Mound Over Hell’ is a powerful and explosive story about a nightmare – what if America and the West loses World War Three to Islam? In the novel, Israel has been wiped out and world Jewry decimated. Europe is now Muslim Europe. Out of the ashes, America, surrounded, has created a new society based on love and ethics, led by Grandma, head of The Family.
All acts of patriotism, from flying the flag to singing the National Anthem, are illegal. Social media has been banned under the Anti-Narcissism Laws. Religion, associated with Islam, is also illegal. In a nation where children are revered, abortion and the use of contraceptives are capital offenses along with pedophilia. Banks, lawyers, psychologists and the entertainment industry were banned by the Anti-Parasite Laws I and II. Robots with faces are also outlawed; during the 2030s the AIs caused havoc by posing as humans and blending into society.
As ‘A Mound Over Hell’ opens, baseball, a sport now identified with treason, begins its final season ever, playing in battered Amazon Stadium (formerly Yankee Stadium), the only remaining ballpark. All of the nation’s stadiums were razed after the failed terrorist attack by the pro-war, pro-baseball Miners at the Seventh Game of the 2065 Yankees-Cubs World Series.
Holograms play for out-of-shape players and attendance barely averages 15 fans a game. Just as the sport is about dead, everything changes. Infused by the miraculous appearance of great players from the past such as Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle (and from the future, the greatest of them all, the female Mooshie Lopez), baseball regains its popularity, only to become a pawn between those who want peace — Grandma is reaching out to dissident Muslims chafing under the tyranny of the Caliphate — and those who want another war.
Richard Allen spoke to Gary Morgenstein about his terrifying new novel.
Why did you write this book?
I love baseball and science fiction, and I’m also a political junkie and a big history buff, so this idea, which popped into my head one Sunday morning while eating bagels and listening to The Beatles with my wife, made perfect sense. I wanted to take current events like the conflict with Islam and project an awful future, which is what science fiction writers do. Then I wanted to give it a twist by including baseball. There are very few sci fi novels which feature baseball, primarily because it’s considered so old fashioned that writers don’t believe it will make it to the future. I turn that upside down by making baseball the victim through its very nostalgia for a great America which no longer exists.
Do you think this could happen?
History is not preordained. We always think the good guys win. Well no. If Lord Halifax had decided to become the Prime Minister of Great Britain instead of my hero Winston Churchill, I suspect Adolf Hitler would’ve won. You could go on and on with a number of possible scenarios where history would have changed on a fluke, the actions of one person. America is the greatest world power and for that, I am grateful and so should anyone who values freedom, but there is no guarantee it will stay that way. Or that Israel will always be militarily mighty. We don’t know what the future holds. That’s the job of a writer.
In the novel, Israel is destroyed. What happens to the rest of world Jewry?
The ISIS-like forces take over or already are in place throughout Europe, where the Jews are rounded up like World War Two, aided by non-Muslims who blame them for the start of this war. I can’t give a spoiler, but while it seems like there are no Jews left, maybe that’s not so.
Your novel evoked classic science fiction such as Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, and George Orwell’s 1984. Were you influenced by those great writers?
I’m honored to be considered in such extraordinary company. Yes, along with Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, they were my literary idols. What they did so brilliantly is build worlds. I found that a fascinating process in my novel, not so much what you come up with but all the rules that must follow to be consistent and logical. For example, there are no cell phones in this America. So how do my characters communicate?
Why do you write Jewish-themed novels?
As a Jew proud of his tradition, I feel a responsibility for telling our stories as part of our rich and diverse legacy, whether it’s from the perspective of science fiction, politics or sports. My second novel, The Man Who Wanted to Play Center Field for the New York Yankees, was about a desperate New York Jewish baseball fan who tries fulfilling his dream of playing for the Yankees. I’m also a playwright. My drama A Tomato Can’t Grow in the Bronx was a poignant story of a dysfunctional working class Jewish family struggling to move to the suburbs in the 1960s. I also wrote the critically-acclaimed, off-Broadway sci-fi rock musical, The Anthem, inspired by an Ayn Rand novella.
Gary Morgenstein’s novel A Mound Over Hell is available in the United States, UK, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, iTunes, Waterstones, Books-a-Million, Foyles, Kobo, Rakuten, Angus and Robertson, and Fishpond NZ, among others.
This piece originally appeared in the New York Jewish Voice.