Books Slog Commenter Book Report 6: Joh Joins The Army of the Republic
posted by October 21 at 12:00 PMon
As you know by now, I bring a batch of advance reader copies to Slog Happy for everyone to enjoy, with the caveat that the person who reads (or tries to read) the book has to review it for all of us here on Slog.
Today’s reviewer is Joh. Joh is reviewing The Army of the Republic, by Stuart Archer Cohen, a thriller set in the near future. Anything you don’t like about this review no doubt is due to the editing process and not at all Joh’s fault and you should blame the editor. I am the editor.
I have to say, right out of the gate, that if you love books with ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE ENDINGS, then The Army of the Republic is for you. And you suck. The end is trying very, very hard to be Citizen Kane, but comes out more like Mulholland Drive. It’s completely disorienting.
I know that those are both film references. What a segue! Cohen makes a theme out of “Pictures” versus “Words”. What makes that so trite is that this book almost reads like a screenplay. It’s got pages upon pages of detail about the most inane bologna, then when the action happens it skips around like a 7 year old on meth. It feels like he is trying to force the idea of a movie adaptation to anyone who even smells the ink on the paper.
The story is told from three viewpoints. The first is that of the young political freedom fighter-cum-quasi-terrorist Lando. He’s calculating, funny, and terribly boring for a protagonist. The next player is James Sands, macho corporate fat cat and owner of a privatized national water business. The third is Emily, some random lady who works for a civil organization group. She is quickly made into a caricature of social progress, and then becomes less interesting as the book wears on.
Now that I’ve said everything negative about the book that I can think of, I have to say that the story in and of itself is well thought out, and downright disturbing. It’s a look at what could be a very plausible political climate in the near future (especially if a certain gun-toting Alaskan whack-job makes her way into the White House under some act of Satan). There are corporate death squads running about killing off dissenters. A whole election is called off due to “terrorist threats”. There is a huge movement advocating paper ballots to counteract voting fraud.
So my recommendation is as such: if you read the book, stop about 10 pages short of the end, close it and make up your own ending. Mine involved baby penguins, a unicorn-fronted Heart tribute band, and James Gandolfini participating in the Iditarod.
Thanks very much to Joh, and you should totally consider retooling your ending into a whole new novel next month for National Novel Writing Month. I’d read it.