2 out of 4 stars
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Citizens Ununited is an action thriller written by PR Oliver. The book’s larger theme is the danger of misuse of the Citizens United court decision that protects political spending as free speech. The author delves into the risk of corporations with huge cash reserves using the cover of political spending to exert control over the government.
The book is centred on a super PAC called UPA that is being investigated because of the strange ways in which it moves its money around. Its goals seem nefarious and its reach is huge. It has a great many law enforcement and government officials on its payroll. It is also involved with TXA, an arms manufacturing corporation that seems to have its own set of shady dealings. The primary protagonist of the book is Alex Pipe, an employee of TXA who happens to notice something amiss in some top secret files. When TXA and UPA suspect that she knows too much, they spy on her and try to kill her. This causes Alex to go across the country as a fugitive together with her new romantic interest, Pete and a rogue FBI agent named Pam. The rest of the story follows their adventures and their attempts to thwart the deadly plans made by these organisations.
The best part of the book is the message that it is focussed on. The author successfully manages to convey a sense of fear at the plausibility of misuse of the Citizens United decision. As I read the book, it sent a chill down my spine to know that a lot of the risks that the author stresses on are extremely real and tangible, not just a flight of fancy. Especially considering the current political climate in the USA, the dangers that this book shines a spotlight on no longer seem far away but seem extremely real and tangible.
One problem I had with the book was the somewhat arbitrary nature of the plot. While I understand that it is not necessary for a work of fiction to be entirely plausible, I don’t see why authors sometimes have their characters act without basic common sense. For example, when the protagonist Alex Pipe realises that she is being followed by her superiors and suspects that they may have killed a colleague, her immediate reaction is to get a roommate and tell her all about these secrets without knowing anything about her. This is just an example of the type of bizarre action that is sometimes used to move the plot forward.
My other problem was with the characters and the lack of character development. Through the course of the book, we get to know a great deal of what our characters are thinking. However, almost all of their thoughts that we know about are related to their own tangled up romances. Apart from their romantic interest in each other or their own romantic problems, we get to know very little about the characters themselves. As a result, I found the characters annoying and was not really invested in their survival. Again, let me reiterate that my problem was not the romance itself, but the focus and screen time spent on it to the exclusion of real character development. In addition to this, there were a great many errors and typos in the book which detracted from the experience of reading the book.
I give this book 2 out of 4 stars. I found the idea of using fiction to illustrate real societal issues to be extremely powerful, but my reaction to the book itself was subdued because of the issues that I mentioned. I would recommend this book to action fans who also enjoy romances and to people who like to learn from fiction.
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