James R. Olson,
An Eagle Unchained
(Erian Press, 2008)

This book is definitely timely. With the United States in full flow towards presidential elections you will not get a more topical book than James R. Olson's An Eagle Unchained.

Olson has written a number of historical novels, but he comes right up to date with this book. The pace is frantic and very cinematic in the writing, but there is also an echo of his historic work.

In many ways this book -- especially in the early stages -- remind me of Daniel DeFoe. That is not to say it is old-fashioned but rather that it reads a bit like one of the tracts that DeFoe wrote using fiction to suggest a better way of life. In this book the words put into the mouth of the hero Theodore Winston Hale sound so convincing and are so well constructed that it could be political polemic of older days.

In essence, Hale wants to do what many people would love to do: to take politics out of the hands of career politicians. Ideas like the removal of career politicians -- no one can serve more than a set term -- is so sound you wonder why it was never established in concrete. The logic that if they knew they were in office only for a set period they might work for something other than re-election is, as they say, a no-brainer.

But do not be misled. This is not just giving a fresh view of government. It is a thriller. The setup is excellent as the rich magnate decides to contest the presidency. A real politician will surely hijack his announcement speech soon.

One slight disappointment -- too true of most thrillers -- is the cast of characters. Where would any of them be without the beautiful, brainy and slightly aloof female lead?

Having accepted the characters we get off to a cracking pace with the usual quota of suspense and surprise -- being a thriller I cannot reveal too much in fear of spoiling the story for you.

Read it as a thriller or a political wakeup call, either way you will have a most enjoyable presidential campaign -- perhaps better than the real thing.

review by
Nicky Rossiter

1 November 2008

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