Shelley's Heart

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Another pick off National Review's 2010 Conservative Lit 101 list.

Charles McCarry wrote this back in 1995, and it's set in the early 21st Century USA. It's billed as a "thriller" right there on the front cover, but there's not much of the usual mayhem typical of the genre. Yes, there's a grisly murder on page 48, but it's pretty much forgotten until the climax about 500 pages (!) later. Other than that, it's conspiratorial skullduggery as a radical plot is afoot to seize the Presidency is afoot.

So it's a political thriller, reminiscent of good old Allen Drury, and the prime plot mover is the apparent theft of the recent Presidential election, accomplished by hacking of the computerized voting results in a few key states. The official loser decides to challenge the result on the eve of the Inauguration, throwing Washington into chaos. (Coincidence: I was reading this concurrently with the IRL headlines about recounts in states Hillary lost and dark allegations about "hacking".)

McCarry's other prognostications about our time are entertainingly off. Ganymede is being colonized! But when someone wants to slip computer information to a confidante, the preferred medium is … a diskette.

And one of the plot points is an alleged Presidential order to assassinate a loony Arab leader who's gotten hold of a couple of nukes. This is seen as a bad, unacceptable thing, grounds for impeachment. From the post-9/11 viewpoint, where a President can order a drone strike on an (admittedly nasty) American citizen without any legal niceties involved, and everyone goes ho-hum, that's a little dissonant.

I was a little bemused to discover the book was number 8 in the "Paul Christopher" series. Usually, I hate reading book N in a series when I haven't read books 1 .. N-1. It's OK, the book works fine as a standalone, although there are a lot of references to previous events which I imagine are described in the previous entries. Slight spoiler: Paul Christopher never actually shows up, but his daughter does.


Last Modified 2016-12-28 6:45 AM EDT