Sunday, March 08, 2009

Book Review: The Plot Against America

Rarely do I enjoy a book on tape so much that I sit around the house listening to it for hours, but I loved Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, so I did just that. Yes, I do know how to read the old-fashioned way, but it's Sunday so it's a little hard to make a print copy materialize and I wanted to finish it. Anyway, amazing book on many levels. Interesting to me as a former sci-fi geek (why has that been the theme of half my latest entries?) to see alternate history done by an actually good writer. As opposed to the "In the year 2020 the robots took over, this is what the robots looked like" of sci-fi, this was more along the lines of "In the year 2020 the robots took over, this is how it affected my relationship with my brothers." (Of course the book is not about robots but about fascist anti-Semite isolationist Charles Lindbergh beating FDR in the 1940 election.) Interesting as a liberal Bush-hater opposed to the Iraq war from the beginning. When is war justified? How do you know whether you're paranoid or whether democracy really is on the brink? What if the alarmist people are the thing preventing democracy from going over the edge?

I was moved to tears several times hearing descriptions of people caring for each other in trying circumstances--as young Philip wanted to help his newly disabled brother recover from his war wounds or as Philip's mom tries to comfort the former neighborhood kid who lost his parents but won't shut up about Fig Newtons. There were hints throughout that the current reality wasn't much different than the future of the alternate universe, so you were reasonably sure something would set things right (or how else could the book ever end?). A friend said the last quarter of the book wasn't as good as the first, and I agree in that I wasn't overwhelmed by the twist that righted history (which I won't spoil) but the great thing about this novel is again not that the T-1000 could walk through walls, but that Sarah Connor formed a lasting bond with her son John, and Philip's family (mostly) hung together through it all.

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