I saw this book in Lydia Schoch’s weekly thread of free books a couple weeks ago, and it looked interesting. You all know the famous warning about judging and covers, but what can I say? This one caught my eye. I advise you to study it for a moment, and think about what kind of book you expect it to be.
The character on the cover is Philippa Roy, a successful politician who serves as U.S. Secretary of State from 2041 to 2045. The book is presented as her memoir of her time in office, which starts off fairly ordinarily enough, recounting her early political career, in which she makes combating climate change a major priority.
Her early successes raise her national profile, which leads to her appointment to the State Department. However, she soon learns a disturbing truth: the U.S. government has been concealing the existence of extraterrestrials, with whom they have been in contact ever since the famed Roswell Incident.
The President reveals this to her because alien technology is humanity’s last hope of reversing the effects of climate change. And so, Secretary Roy enters into tense negotiations with beings from another world, attempting to convince them to share their advanced technology.
Of course, she also still has to juggle various Earthly political rivalries, both in the form of domestic and global opponents. My favorite was her relationship with the Russian President, who, despite being a villain, was perhaps the most entertaining character in the story.
Also, as most of you know, I am fascinated by conspiracy theories, and Roswell / Area 51 is fertile ground for same. As an aficionado of classic Coast to Coast AM, back when Art Bell was the host, the parts of the story that concerned the government covering up their dealings with “our friends upstairs” gave me a warm, nostalgic glow. I loved every minute of Secretary Roy’s gradual uncovering of the clandestine operations of the “dark state”. (How cool of a term is that, by the way? I bet Mike Lofgren wishes he thought of it.)
This brings me at last to the “political” angle of the story. Just last week, I was tweeting about how much I prefer reviewing indie books to blogging about politics. But I guess I have to say a word or two about it here.
Some readers might disagree with Secretary Roy’s policies. Some may find them too left-wing. Others may find them not left-wing enough. Such are the joys of politics! My advice: don’t get hung up on details like this. Obviously, for the plot of the book to work, the main character needed to be a high-ranking official in the U.S. government, and to make that make sense, the author needed to give her a plausible political background and corresponding set of policies.
I myself did not agree with every one of Roy’s policies. But that did not detract from my enjoyment of the book one bit. While the author obviously put a lot of thought into making the political aspect of the book believable, it’s a science-fiction story in the tradition of Childhood’s End and The Day the Earth Stood Still, and should be treated as such. I highly recommend it to all sci-fi fans.
[Audio version of this post available below.]
Interesting idea of the protagonist being part of the system, quite a refreshing change from the ‘outsiders’ fighting against a monolithic government.
I thought so. I like the idea of the “visible” leaders in government dealing (sometimes fighting) with the behind-the-scenes layers of administrators. Sort of like the television show “Yes, Minister” actually…
Although after 45+ years working in the UK Civil Service at ‘the front desk’ and trying to translate the numerous political policies into workable actions the roles are often the other way around. (Don’t miss it one little bit)
I bet you don’t! 😀 That must be quite an experience.
Alice in Wonderland is the best way to describe it.
Plus my own personal mantra ‘We achieved not because of Government, but in spite of it’
Now that’s interesting, I like this idea a lot. Alien invasion flipped on its head was my first thought when looking at the cover so I think I was close!
You sure were! Yes, it’s an interesting concept.