Reading

Review; Republic by Charles Sheehan-Miles

I’m a sucker for believable alternative histories, and what-if’s. All the review came back suspiciously and overwhelming positive for this book. Despite that, I figured that I had nothing to lose, and dove right in. This was my first Kindle download, and a free one at that.

Republic was written a number of years back, but remains eerily close to things that have happened in America up to a point. Facing economic ruin, and rising unemployment, Republic follows a number of characters in West Virginia after the shutdown of a major plant leaves an entire town out of work. The characters we follow are compelling, and on many levels on what escalates from a terrorist attack, to increasing protest, Homeland Security heavy handedness, and a ballot for West Virginia’s separation from the Union. We follow soldiers, everyman’s, congressmen, all neatly and believably woven together in each other’s fates.

The only gripe I might have on that level is that Department of Homeland Security are cardboard ‘bad guys’ by comparison. Even in the one scene where the DHS agent is facing down the leader of the West Virginia effort to secede, discussing liberties and loyalty to America, we don’t get a compelling sense at all that the Department is anything more than a means to an end in terms of the story. I guess someone has to be the bad guys.

The pacing is decent and the escalation keeps ramping things up to its inevitable conclusion. I should have seen the end coming, but it was a satisfying ending. I found myself asking at the end was what the rest of America was thinking and feeling, and to be honest, even the world. It’s something that isn’t touched on at least, but I didn’t find the novel lacking for it.

I went into this book with all the good reviews in mind, but also sharply aware of the books short fallings. Any review that has been less than shining has commented on the stiff writing, the awkward description and editing issues. I’d agree, and really think it’s a shame that it hadn’t been passed by a few more test readers or a few more editors. For me at least, these points alone stopped this from being a truly great book. We have a well woven, believable situation that is potholed along the way by too many technical issues that made me groan or wince, dragging me out of the story.

Don’t let that put you off checking it out though, if you’re looking for a book of this sort. In terms of believable and well plotted what-if’s this is up there with the best for me.

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