The book got off to a slightly rocky start, with two things that I thought were going to be big problems and cause me to take a little inspiration from Dorothy Parker. That would have been to hurl the thing away with great force, and go into mourning for $8 that would have been better spent on cheap whiskey. One, the language describing the reaction of the new lesbian president of the United States to her inauguration is a bit much, and a little too explicit for my taste. Two, a Catholic priest seemed to be presented as a main character, and that almost always means too-heroic-for-words saccharinity, or consummate villainy hiding behind the collar.
Fortunately the [crud] describing the new president was confined to two or three sentences, so I was not subjected to the usual in-depth psychoanalysis of the president's sexuality, graphic descriptions of her deviant sexual encounters, so on, so forth, etc., by means of which far too many (one is too many) of today's novelists pad out their word count. Doubly fortunate, the priest turned out to be portrayed as an actual human being. Far more heroic than I, of course . . . what, we want to read about cowardly heroes? Face it, the 15-year old prostitute the priest rescued from the streets is more heroic than I.
|You really want to give this guy a bad review?|
For laughs (and to cop a few ideas) I visited the Amazon webpage for A State of Disobedience and looked over the reviews, 60 of them when I checked. I got more laughs than ideas. Evidently this is a book you either love or hate. There were only a handful of 2-3-4 star reviews, with the rest 1s and 5s. My impression was that the ones who loved it actually read it, as did the few moderates. The haters didn't come off so well. The most frequent comment was that it was "unreadable," and they seem to have proved their point by not reading it.
|Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson, Sci-Fi novelist|
That's bad enough, of course, but there seemed to be particular outrage at the fact that the author sympathized with "anti-abortion" (never "pro-life") terrorists who go around burning abortion clinics, and is clearly filled with hate himself. Really? Almost the first scene in which the heroic-yet-human priest appears he takes issue with the cowardly-yet-human priest about the CYHP's inflammatory rhetoric at a pro-life demonstration. Later, when counseling the children before the fighting begins, the HYHP cautions the boys that the pseudo storm troopers who will be trying to kill them aren't evil, and they shouldn't hate them. Far from "sympathizing" with abortion clinic burners, the author has the priest who probably sanctioned the burning — which took no lives — come off as pretty pathetic, although there is a brief hint that he redeemed himself at the end.
Personally, I think the real reason the negative reviewers hated the book was pretty much the only reason not mentioned, the Hate That Dare Not Speak Its Name, a.k.a., "The Anti-Semitism of the Intellectual." The book's most attractive characters are clearly Catholic. You can't say that, of course, but you can mention all the things that the Catholic Church "opposes" that the best people seem to be for: crimes against nature, confiscatory taxation, worship of false gods (e.g., the State), and so on, besides being slightly suspect for kissing rings and kowtowing to people who wear funny clothes and crazy hats. You can even hint that the author is anti-Semitic as, of course, Everyone Knows All Catholics Are. The book's clear conservative standpoint didn't help; a suspiciously large number of negative reviewers claimed to be conservatives of the some-of-my-best-friends-are variety.
|You don't sell a gazillion books with stereotypes.|
As for the plot, a lot of the negative reviewers described it as "over the top" and not really science fiction. No kidding. It's military science fiction. It's supposed to be over the top. As for the assertion that it's not really science fiction . . . when did political science stop being a science? The best science fiction isn't zap guns and BEMs, but extrapolates social, technological, political, and even economic trends, often exaggerating them to make a point and carrying things out to a more or less logical conclusion.
|Sir George Chesney|
Oh, yes, the plot. A lesbian has just been elected president of the United States, and she has an Agenda with a capital A: State control of education, the economy, individual incomes, and keep going with all the liberal causes, some of which are a trifle exaggerated. I say a trifle, because I am more familiar than I care to be with the way in which anyone suspected of being conservative is labeled, and subjected to constant harangues about the Evil Conservative Conspiracy — and, while it's sometimes frosted with a little bit of humor, you need only spend a short time within the DC Beltway to see that many liberals are honestly convinced that conservatives (or those they suspect of conservatism) mean to herd them into death camps at the first opportunity . . . and no, I didn't make that up. In 2004 a good friend told me in all seriousness that he expected to be rounded up, put into a concentration camp and gassed if George Bush was reelected.
|Could never happen in a civilized country.|
Anyway, the new police forces are sent into Texas to break up a pro-life protest against abortion and, true to the nature of untrained police, overreact and start clubbing protestors as they are attempting to disperse. We, of course, know that this is pure fiction, because even untrained police or National Guardsmen would never open fire on people they have been told and retold are violent terrorists intent on killing everyone who disagrees with them.
Here's where a slight glitch occurs in the writing. The heroic-yet-human priest is very badly beaten, but a very short time later seems to have made a full recovery. It's not stated, but he doesn't seem to act like someone who recently had a serious beating from 15 fear-crazed untrained paramilitary police.
Right after that an abortion "clinic" is torched. In revenge, the pseudo storm troopers go after the cowardly-yet-human priest, assuming that they'll catch him at his office. They massacre everyone inside (being careful to plant incriminating evidence), but the priest was just coming in, and manages to escape, seeking sanctuary at the mission run by the heroic-yet-human priest.
Naturally the FBI tracks him down and tries to take him away . . . provoking the above-mentioned rescued former prostitute who idolizes the heroic-yet-human priest to start blasting away with a .22 when she thinks her rescuer is in danger. Several reviewers seemed to think that this and similar incidents were "unbelievable." Vide comment on untrained and extremely nervous and frightened people with guns, supra.
This causes the paramilitary police and the FBI to surround the mission and, eventually, invade, killing everybody inside except for the sole survivor. This, of course, could never happen, especially in Waco, Texas. The governor orders the arrest of the federal agents who carried out the operation, which eventually causes a civil war between Texas and the federal government.
|Backed by assets, convertible to gold ...until Keynes did his number on it.|
The author confuses a currency printing facility with a mint. Horrors. As a long time numismatist (i.e., a student of coins and money, cf. my monthly column in Krause Publications' World Coin News; I'm a student, I can't afford to collect the coins AND buy the books) I had the urge actually to write in the book, inserting a correction. He also doesn't understand money, credit, banking, and finance. Of course, neither does Ben Bernanke, President Obama, or all the others who go around telling everybody else how to screw up the financial system even more than now.
As I said, however, these gigantic errors do not really detract from the book. There are a couple of places in which the author's novice status shows through — you know, stating the obvious, overwriting a bit — but nothing you can't bleep over, forgive and forget (and what do you want from a first novel?). Bottom line: I'm not glad I spent the money. (I'm never glad about that — and I can't get them for free. For a Virginia author, almost a local, the author's books are noticeably absent from the library shelves in Northern Virginia . . . but then, so are mine.) I am, however, glad I read the book. It's better than most of the shows on television, especially since Buffy went off the air, and it wasn't a waste of money.