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Monday, August 27, 2007

Reading List: America's Last Days

MacKinnon, Douglas. America's Last Days. New York: Leisure Books, 2007. ISBN 0-8439-5802-2.
There are some books which are perfect for curling up with in front of a fireplace. Then there are those which are best used, ripped apart, for kindling; this is one of the latter. The premise of the novel is that the “Sagebrush Rebellion” gets deadly serious when a secretive group funded by a billionaire nutcase CEO of a major defence contractor plots the secession of two Western U.S. states to re-found a republic on the principles of the Founders, by threatening the U.S. with catastrophe unless the government accedes to their demands. Kind of like the Free State Project, but with nukes.

To liken the characters, dialogue, and plotting of this story to a comic book would be to disparage the comics, some of which, though certainly not all, far surpass this embarrassingly amateurish effort. Although the author's biography states him to have been a former White House and Pentagon “official” (he declines to state in which capacity), he appears to have done his research on how senior government and corporate executives behave and speak from watching reruns of “24”.

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.  
Ask yourself, is it plausible that the CEO of a billion dollar defence contractor would suggest, in an audience consisting not only of other CEOs, but a senior Pentagon staffer and an analyst for the CIA, that a Presidential candidate should be assassinated? Or that the director of the FBI would tell a foreign national in the employ of the arch-villain that the FBI was about to torture one of her colleagues?
Spoilers end here.  
I'm not going to bother with the numerous typos and factual errors—any number of acronyms appear to have been rendered phonetically based upon a flawed memory. The whole book is one big howler, and picking at details is like brushing flies off a decomposing elephant carcass. The writing is formulaic: like beginners' stories in a fiction workshop, each character is introduced with a little paragraph which fingerpaints the cardboard cut-out we're about to meet. Talented writers, or even writers with less talent but more experience, weave what background we need to know seamlessly into the narrative. There is a great deal of gratuitous obscenity, much of which is uttered in contexts where I would expect decorum to prevail. After dragging along for 331 pages devoid of character development and with little action, the whole thing gets wrapped up in the the final six preposterously implausible pages. Perhaps, given the content, it's for the best that there is plenty of white space; the average chapter in this mass market paperback is less than five pages in length.

As evidence of the literary erudition and refinement of the political and media elite in the United States, this book bears laudatory blurbs from Larry King, James Carville, Bob Dole, Dee Dee Myers, and Tom Brokaw.

Posted at August 27, 2007 21:21