3 out of 4 stars
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American Fascist by Malcom James is a political thriller about a fictional U.S. President. Despite the polls predicting otherwise, billionaire and political neophyte Harold P. Franks beats his female opponent in the 2016 Presidential campaign (sound familiar?). One of Franks’ key traits is shooting from the hip with controversial, often ignorant comments in the media.
Tech geek Eli Green is contracted to provide social media advertising for the Franks campaign. Once Franks becomes President, Eli is offered a job in the White Office Policy Office. The plot thickens when he is paid a huge consulting salary to install a secret taping system in the Oval Office.
I enjoyed this well-written story although I am recovering from a severe case of déjà vu. It is written in third person from Eli’s perspective. He is an interesting character who struggles with the unethical dealings in the White House. The author does a good job of describing the manic atmosphere of working in this environment. Every few pages there is another shoe that drops, whether it’s a poorly conceived policy, dismantling of a department or policy, wild tweet, or senior staff member’s resignation.
It’s now time to address the elephant in the room. This book is a thinly (as in paper thin) disguised story of the Trump presidency, although the central plot is fictional (as far as I know). Eli seems to be the only major character that doesn’t bear striking similarities to a real-life counterpart. The reader is introduced to President Franks, who has a successful real estate company and a thick head of hair; during the campaign, many women came forward to say they were sexually assaulted by him. It is also incredibly easy to figure out who the rest of the characters are in relation to the real-life White House staff. With name changes, the story contains countless accounts of true events– for example, the travel ban, the Special Counsel’s investigation about Russian interference in the election, the entertainment TV show tape, and the firing of the FBI Director, to name a few. It’s like reading a scrapbook of the Trump administration.
If it’s not already apparent, the plot is busy which weighs down the pace. By the middle of the book, I felt like I was running in place. Still, the side stories are easy to keep track of, mainly because I already knew about the real-life events. The good news is the second half is inventive and the pace quickens to a roaring conclusion.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. It is an interesting read, but the story and characters are mostly unoriginal and the plot is cluttered. I felt like I was reading a play-by-play of almost every single event and person in the real-life Trump administration and Special Counsel’s investigation. That being said, Eli is a likable character and some parts of the storyline are fresh. I would recommend the book to readers who enjoy political thrillers and fiction based on true events.
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