This review contains spoilers. Deal or move on.
It's good that a (semi) major popular writer has written a (semi) major popular novel presenting the basic idea that the USA mil.gov can, does, and will pepetrate mass-murder false terror schemes for fun and profit.
It's always absolutely astonishing to me when the average American's first reaction to the idea of 9/11 as an inside job is to gasp "No way the USA gov would murder 3,000 of their own people!" Huh? First of all, where does anybody get off asserting that we are the mil.gov's people? As though they own us? Second, of course nobody is charging that the entire USA mil.gov signed some executive order or legislative proclamation to murder those 3,000. Obviously it was a relatively small and secretive group. The average GS-10 mathematician working for the Bureau of Labor Statistics is innocent and pure as driven snow, ok? And then finally, there's some kind of shocked ascriptive morality behind that reaction, like sure they'd invade and destroy South Vietnam and Iraq, train and equip SAVAK and Pinochet and Guatamalen Death Squads - they'd decimate all kinds of places stocked with non-Caucasian cattle, but surely would hesitate to snuff a few thousand New Yorkers. Those people need to review the classic scene from The Godfather: "Kate, now who's being naive?" (Michael Corleone)
Anyway, you can infer from the paragraph above that yes, Shell Game takes on USA mil.gov false flag terror. But it goes at the project very half-heartedly. Alten's view on 9-11 is pretty tepid - he seems to think that yeah, the 19 Al Qaeda guys did it, but there were warnings that may have been deliberately suppressed or ignored. So one thing I disliked about Shell Game, is that Alten gives very short shrift to the deeper analyses of 9-11 as an inside job. He pretty much just tsks-tsks over missed warnings or faulty intelligence, lack of due diligence, and leaves it at that. Hello champ, it's a whole lot worse than that. Read David Ray Griffin. Listen to Richard Gage. (Neither is listed in his Suggested Reading).
But 9-11 is ancient history right? So over! So 2001! We Americans have always been a forward-looking people, and what we have to look forward to is escalation from boxcutters on planes to nukes in an American city. Alten is not some wild-eyed radical with that prediction - Dick Cheney and others have stated exactly the same many times. And look at the perfect linearly ascending line of escalation of False Flag Firepower and scale of target:
OKC Federal building ==>
World Trade Center complex ==>
American city nuke.
It makes perfect sense, and probably it will happen.
When it comes to Alten's made-up future (2012) nuking-a-city plot, he does lay it out as a full Neo-Con inside job, with Arab patsies run by rogue FBI moles (in the actual 9-11, the patsies were run by the CIA and honest low-level FBI agents almost accidentally ruined everything by nearly exposing the op prematurely, but fortunately a higher up FBI supervisor managed to clamp down before everything was totally ruined.) So all that part of Shell Game is plausible.
The book is really complex with lots of subplots. The overall motivational narrative basically follows Mike Ruppert's line, that the Neo-Con's recognize the imminence of Peak Oil and hope to use their endless Imperial spitstorm to lockdown the world's remaining oil fields under USA stewardship forever. I don't really know if I buy such a forward-thinking motivation. I think they just want to lock down the USA forever. Recognition of Peak Oil and taking any pro-action on that basis is just too much of a stretch for these guys. Their only interest is political power in the here and now.
Long story short, Los Angeles gets completely obliterated by a suitcase nuke planted by rogue/NeoCon FBI people, coordinated through the Department of Homeland Security and approved by the President. But then one heroic guy exposes the backstory of the crime and due to the resulting firestorm of media investigation and public outcry, the most extreme NeoCon's are chased out of office, and the nation limps onward with a renewed dedication to weaning ourselves off foreign oil.
The idea that some kind of "media exposure" could effectively address a false flag op is ridiculous. In fact, the media is part of the op in the first place. Not that the media is consciously in on the game of course (they are far too stupid to be trusted with any explicit operational role or insider knowledge - honestly they are truly stupid people) but they tacitly understand their place as mil.gov cheerleaders (taking care to nip at The Hand now and then - mustn't be too obvious) and happy to roll over at the merest nod, wink, or nudge from their more clued-in mil.gov handlers. So the end of the book is a ridiculous fairy tale.
But it's clear that:
(a) the Neo-Con's got almost everything desired from 9-11;
(b) that still isn't good enough.
They need more lockdown, the military draft, draconian internet controls, national DNA database; all kinds of cool agendas remain unfulfilled. Now I'm not saying they absolutely must fry one or more USA cities to get the above basket of goodies. Incremental post-9/11-ism will do the job, in due course of time. But isn't it really more fun for them to nudge it along with a Big Fiery Bang? Fortune favors the bold! So I think both Dick Cheney and Alten are correct, an American city probably will be nuked.
In the book, the actual nukes (yeah, real mushroom stuff, not dirty bombs) are clandestinely engineered by a lone rogue Chinese scientist living in the USA. Another unrealistic touch, to me. Probably the bombs will actually come from a USA military unit that agrees with the NeoCon agenda.
I just wish this book was (a) more plausibly and clearly plotted and (b) better written. The characters are thin to the point of ghostliness. The book is also filled with trivial yet distracting typos: "vehicle with new front break pads"; "a training regiment that would challenge me"; "fallout could effect both Pakistan and India", "hoards of people" - lots like that. Guy must've been in a rush to put the book out.
Alten is prescient in some peripheral ways. For example, the President through most of the book's action is "President McKuin" a Republican, former war hero who beat out Hillary Clinton in 2008 - you get the picture, and this was apparently written in early 2007 or well before I for one would have given a plugged nickel for John McCain's chances in the Republican primaries.
The book is the author's mild warning of what might happen if we don't get off foreign oil and go green pretty soon. It is not an indictment of anybody for 9-11, nor does it offer any kind of practical roadmap to forestalling the final lockdown.
The writing quality is B- at best, and it's only mildly entertaining. But I do thank novelist Alten for at least broaching the subject of state-sponsored terror, because probably only through fiction can most Americans begin to approach reality.