Midden’s (One Voice Too Many, 2011, etc.) deeply disturbing novel about the fracturing of modern America opens with Joe Biden’s nightmare of Barack Obama’s assassination.
Coming out of the divisive real-life landscape of politics in the past decade, this macabre tale revolves around a U.S.-based insurrection, the likes of which has not been seen since the Civil War. In an attempt to gain power and enable the country to be remade, a handful of influential businessmen, clergymen and others—some of whom fit the M.O. of Donald Trump, Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter—plan the hostile takeover of several key government institutions, including Fort Knox and the Capitol, as well as dissenting men and women, such as some professors and elected officials. Rev. Abner Bellamy of Georgia, brothers George and David Blinder, and Daniel Keenan each undergo the same shirking of faith in government—supposedly emblematic of the real anger of the political right—and lead the rebellious Sovereign Citizens group. Harvey Winkelstein, a gunrunner and physics professor, provides the ammo. On the other side, a handful of valiant operatives under Max Grabel of the CIA, his contract worker Marie LeBrun, and her lover and PI/contract worker, Samantha Stranger, work diligently to find out just who’s leading the scheme and how it can be stopped. Interlaced with informative exposition designed to further detail the political context, the narrative can sometimes sound like a flat professor: “Ultimately, it was this group that determined that the time was ripe for an escalation of hostilities and an outright dismantling of the United States of America.” Overall, though, the plot moves with enough speed to keep readers engaged. With an abrupt cliffhanger, the story doesn’t quite come together in the end—it’s as though readers are watching Zero Dark Thirty without knowing the crucial outcome—but Midden’s underlying aim of establishing the angry, partisan undertones of the current political climate is remarkably effective. This battle isn’t for the faint of heart, however, as the surreal yet eerily plausible extension of current politics will elicits some chills.
A brutal political battle that may be too much for some readers.