Isaac Sidel, last seen (Under the Eye of God, 2012) as vice president–elect, becomes president when his top guy is forced to resign. Fireworks ensue, most of them not especially patriotic.
Swept into the second spot and then the top spot by the Slaughter of ’88, Isaac finds himself with a lot less power than when he was the Pink Commish, and later the mayor, of New York. His trusted chief of staff, Brenda Brown, has fled the Beltway madness; her successor, Ramona Dazzle, seems to think keeping her boss in the dark is at the heart of her job description; and there are rumors that Vice President Bull Latham is really running the country. Dazzled by the constant conflicts between everybody and everybody else, Isaac soon realizes that the real power brokers are unelected thugs, financiers, and apparatchiks like Gen. Raymond Tollhouse, head of private-security octopus Wildwater; Baron Pierre de Robespierre, Renata’s Swiss banker; German publishing baron Rainer Wolff; and Viktor Danzig, the tattoo artist dubbed Rembrandt for his flawless counterfeit $50 bills. Counterfeiting indeed provides a radical figure for the action here, although prolific, multitalented Charyn (Jerzy, 2017, etc.) floats enough demotic metaphors within some paragraphs to swamp the nominal action. Isaac, “a clown with a Glock” adrift in a world in which anything can happen to anyone by the end of any sentence, bounces like a bagatelle ball from a school for assassins to the Sons of Rossiya and an uprising at Rikers, where he earns the headline “POTUS TOP COP” before achieving the ultimate Oval Office accolades: Saul Bellow compares him to Isaac’s beloved Augie March, and Danzig tells him that “he was now a registered werewolf.”
Less antic than some of its waggish hero’s earlier chronicles but still manically inventive, proudly undisciplined, and peopled with dark lords and ladies best characterized by wildly inflated epithets—in other words, nothing at all like any presidencies since 1988.