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David Knight Goes to Moscow’ has a modern appeal

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“Cyberwars: David Knight Goes to Moscow” by Avraham Shama

For David Knight, 34, life is about to get complex and adventurous.

Avraham Shama

He is the protagonist of Avraham Shama’s first novel “Cyberwars: David Knight Goes to Moscow”.

It’s 1999 and Knight is a new economics professor at the University of New Mexico. He came to UNM after failing to earn tenured status at New York University, as he had assumed. The failure and his divorce leave him emotionally broken. His move to Albuquerque is a fresh start. However, he quickly enters worlds he had never imagined.

As he moves into his campus office, he receives a call from a woman from an unidentified federal government agency. She was impressed by a paper he had presented at the Los Alamos National Laboratory on the Russian economy. She invites him to Washington, D.C. and soon Knight agrees to work under contract as a “consultant”, unofficially as a spy, for the Central Intelligence Agency.

At the request of the CIA, he travels to Moscow to report on the health of Russia’s private sector economy under Vladimir Putin’s aggressive new regime. Putin wants his country to boost its economy and play a stronger geopolitical role, including investing in cyber weapons targeting the United States.

The novel, with adequate moments of intrigue and tension, also looks inside Knight’s personal life.

He is dating Toni Chavez, herself a newly appointed political science professor at UNM. Hispanic, Toni hails from a small town in northern New Mexico. She received a public education. His background contrasts with Knight, an East Coast Anglo who attended private schools.

Although their relationship warms from the start, Knight is reluctant to go public with their romance. Also, he doesn’t know what to tell Toni about his work for the CIA. So he keeps her in the dark. He is barely able to recognize his spying to himself.

During his first visit to Moscow, Knight falls under the spell of Alexa, his Russian translator, government economist, femme fatale and possible spy. Feeling guilty, he certainly won’t tell Toni about his affair with Alexa.

Knight looks to nature to guide him through some of these conflicts. On a hike, he stops to ask a group of wild marigolds if he’s doing the right thing as a “spy.” Worries tell him it’s fine as long as he doesn’t intend to do harm. He denies any such intention. In fact, Knight feels a growing sense of patriotism while working for the CIA.

He informs the worries that he also questions his intentions with Toni.

Worries tell him he’s doing the right thing, advising him, “To doubt everything is normal. Doubt comes before clarity.

Shama, the author, said Knight’s communion with nature can be seen as a reflection of the protagonist’s inner thoughts.

Albuquerque resident Shama said he decided to write this book as a work of fiction “because it gives me certain freedoms. I can present a lot of information without attributing it to any person or organization. … I have the freedom to explore facts and hypotheses as to Russia’s motivation regarding the invasion of the United States via cyberspace.

David Knight’s character, Shama said, is based on himself and people he has read. Shama was born in Iraq, raised in Israel, and has lived in the United States since 1970. He is Emeritus Professor of International Business at UNM.

Other aspects of Knight’s life are worth noting, he said. Knight grew up the privileged son of a doctor father and a mother who graduated from Smith College. “His mother raised him like her roses in the garden,” Shama said.

And Knight was an unmarried child. “Single kids are different,” the author said. “They stay to themselves. They are hypersensitive.

The novel ends with several moral uncertainties. Will Knight continue to work sub rosa for the CIA? Will he be able to deflect two men who tailed him and now want to recruit him to spy on Russia? And what is the future of Knight and Toni?

The unanswered questions will have readers wondering if a sequel is in sight.

Shama is not committing to a sequel. But if he did write one, he says, “it would probably be called ‘Cyberwars: David Knight Goes to Beijing.’ ”

Shama links the novel to reality. He predicts that once the current war between Russia and Ukraine is over, the United States will enter into a strained relationship with China over Taiwan.