Debut author Coleman imagines an ill-equipped president starting an ill-advised war in this satirical political novel.
In this story’s version of America, the White House is occupied by a blue-blooded former governor of Texas who may sound familiar: “James William Weed (‘Jim W.’ to most) was the likable sort—a good-ol’-boy with a kind heart. In fact, Jim W. pretty much liked…everybody!” When Los Angeles is destroyed by a nuclear blast, however, the country needs leadership to counter the terrorist threat. Looking around for someone to bomb in response, Weed decides on the Democratic Arab People’s Republic of Central Asia. The evidence of their involvement in the attack is tenuous, at best, but the president knows that the American people need an enemy. With the help of his advisers, including National Security Adviser Margarita Spice, Secretary of State Roland Howell, and CIA Director Charles Bennett, Weed leads the United States in a new “War Against Terror” that will affect the lives of both soldiers and citizens. As he juggles domestic scandals and the competing interests of other world powers—as well as the possibility that the terrorists were assisted by someone within his own White House—he learns that the business of governing isn’t quite as easy as he thought it would be. Coleman writes in dense, knotty, and energetic prose filled with asides and emphatic flourishes: “This was a cataclysmic arbitrary genocide that they were all witnessing—all of it occurring within a matter of seconds….It would most certainly make Hiroshima look like a small blip in the lexicon of thermonuclear dynamics!” However, as a satirical work, it’s not all that funny despite its cartoonish characters. Curiously, both the 9/11 attacks and the George W. Bush administration exist within the fictional universe of the novel (Weed is President Barack Obama’s successor), which blunts Coleman’s critique. Mostly, though, the work is undermined by the far greater urgency of the current political dysfunction in Washington. It wouldn’t have made for particularly thoughtful satire in 2007—but in 2017, it’s simply irrelevant.
A confusingly late fictional jab at the George W. Bush administration’s war on terror.