Economic hardship and political strife spark a second civil war.
In Martin’s fast-paced but disjointed debut, Mark—a “newly-minted” vice presidential candidate in a near-future United States election—is a sympathetic package: Iraq war veteran, successful small businessman, widower, single father. He’s the hand-picked running mate of “the Governor,” who’s in a tight race to unseat the president (“a man for the ages, his popularity was still high on a personal level”) at the polls, but Mark is a self-designated “man of the land,” with a bedrock sense of decency that meshes poorly with cutthroat political maneuvering—maneuvering that increases tenfold when the Governor seems to win the election on a hotly contested technicality and then suddenly dies, with poisoning by the president’s secretary suspected. Seemingly overnight, the country—and the military—are choosing sides, with “the Feds” and “the Territories” standing in for red states and blue states. Military commanders on both sides size up the potentials of terrain and supply (in one of many clever details, the Feds imprison POWs of the Territories in Death Valley). Martin keeps the action flying, except when characters deliver blocks of exposition about the state of politics or the workings of the U.S. government. Such interruptions impede what’s otherwise a compelling story, and Martin’s decision to keep so many of his characters in the abstract (“the Chief,” “the Campaign Manager,” “the Host,” etc.) undercuts his considerable talent at creating interesting dialogue. Details like these—and a sudden ending—beg substantial revision.
A quick tempo doesn’t save this problematic political fable.