Empire in Collapse

Finally, a global turning-of-the-tables dystopian novel that transcends clichés about Islam and the West

The rise of jihadist Islam and the ­turmoil of the Arab world have led to a few dystopian it-can-happen-here novels that imagine the rise of a powerful Islamist state to the detriment of democratic values. Michel Houellebecq’s Submission imagines a not-too-distant French republic in which an Islamist party is elected to the federal government (its only serious opposition is the racist nationalist party). Women’s rights and academic freedom suffer, but the protagonist, an academic, finds himself placated by the idea of (newly legal) polygamy. Boualem Sansal’s novel 2084: The End of the World is set in a vast desert caliphate where prayer is mandatory nine times a day and heretics are executed in public. These pessimistic fantasies turn on the idea of the Muslim world as threatening and expansionist, and the liberal west as soft and permissive.

Omar El Akkad’s spec-fic novel American War...