O: A Presidential Novel- A Book Review
O: A Presidential Novel by Anonymous (believed to be Mark Salter)
353 pgs, 2011 Simon and Schuster
overall rating 17/35
O: a Presidential Novel a Review
Before I get into blasting this book, I will say that it did have some interesting points and it is not entirely terrible... Once the story got rolling, about 150 pages in. This book was my first foray into a purely political novel (I have read nearly everything by Tom Clancy, but while his books has aspects of politcality, they would not be considered political novels) and while it is not a genre I would normally be drawn too, this one intrigued me-- perhaps because the author chose to remain anonymous.
O: A Presidential Novel, relied on two gimmicks, really: An anonymous author who has been in the same room with President Obama. That's intriguing. That makes you buy a book... until you sit back and think about it. If the author is anonymous, why? Does he lack credibility? Is he biased? And, anyone who has been to a presidential rally, speech or debate has been in the same room as President Obama. The insider knowledge in this book is nothing you couldn't figure out by reading press clippings or binging on The West Wing.
The story begins in January 2011, right as the presidential campaign for 2012 is picking up steam. O, thinly veiled as Obama (and why? It is s annoying seeing the word O on the page over and over again. At least give him an actual name, or, gasp, call him Obama.) begins his quest for reelection against republican candidate Tom “Terrific' Morrison, a thinly veiled Romney, right down to the hot headed son and the CEO label with nefarious connections. The story follows both campaign teams and a pool of reporters. While there is some interesting political maneuverings and insights, the characters are paper thin caricatures. There is no depth and nothing to draw you into the characters, most of whom are wholly unlikable. Even the private thoughts and conversations reveal nothing that couldn't be discovered by watching C-Span or reading Time and the Wall Street Journal.
The anonymous author is now believed to be Mark Salter, a former aide of senator and presidential candidate John McCain. So, while Salter would certainly have more insight into the ins and outs of a campaign than your average Joe, it doesn't make him a a great (or even a good) novelist. The book is interesting for it's political insights but these insights are not unique to Salter and probably don't warrant the time that this 353 page book takes to get through.
The other problem with O: A presidential Novel, is that it takes about 150 pages to get started. The first dozen chapters go something like this:
“As Caricature of a Foul Mouthed Campaign Manager began to tie his tie, he reflected on how he got here [ten pages of backstory and then a final sentence, something like: ] He stepped outside to face the world.”
So, for half the novel, the story goes backwards, no forward motion. By the time the story gets moving, you're so bored and fed up with the characters that you don't even care what happens, and find yourself rooting for a third party candidiate to swoop in and take over the presidency (oh, if we could be so lucky!). Backstory is fine but an expert writer can weave it in seamlessly, not slow down the story to tell the entire life story of a minor character.
Salters should stick with non fiction. He has decent writing skills, but he is not a novelist nor even a story teller. And, by the time the novel concludes, one day before the 2012 election day, the reader closes the book not knowing who even wins the election. There is no payoff. But, I shouldn't have been surprised; the whole novel was filled with false starts and false promises.
Writing/Editing Quality: 6/10
Entertainment quality: 10/20
Total Rating: 17/35
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A FREELANCE WRITER, HONORS STUDENT AND GOVER PRIZE FINALIST, JUSTIN W. PRICE (AKA, PDXKARAOKEGUY)IS A POET, SHORT STORY, BIOGRAPHY AND HUMOR WRITER. HIS POETRY COLLECTION,DIGGING TO CHINA, WAS RELEASED FEBRUARY 2ND, 2013 BY SWEATSHOPPE PUBLICATIONS AND IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM, BARNES AND NOBLE AND THROUGH YOUR LOCAL BOOKSELLER.
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