Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Review by JD: The Army of the Republic by Stuart Archer Cohen

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  • The Army of the Republic
  • by Stuart Archer Cohen
  • ISBN: 978-0-312-42905-8
  • Pages 422: paperback
  • Picador, 2009
  • Genre: Speculative Thriller

An excellent novel – dark and dangerous and the best book I’ve read in a few months.

The setting is America in the very near future, after an energy crisis, oil-related wars and financial collapse have left much of working America in ruins. A corrupt government is working in cahoots with major corporations to privatize everything they can in order to line their own pockets. At the same time they have slowly but surely disenfranchised the population by rigging elections and election procedures. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, they rely heavily on a huge private security firm to do their dirty work for them, backed up by a well-organized PR firm which ensures that all major media is manipulated to present a one sided version of the government and all news reporting.

Feeling like they have no legitimate alternatives, a series of clandestine resistance groups spring up across the country. They resort to violent tactics in order to try and stop the government and to shake the general population from its blind acceptance of a bad situation. One of the groups is called the Army of the Republic, and the novel revolves around its leader, Lando, and a super-wealthy businessman whose obsession with growing his company at the expense of public rights makes him a target for the group. The story builds to a climax as the government forces and the guerilla groups head for a showdown, with peaceful civilian protest groups caught in the middle.

This is a complex and powerful story. On one level it is a clever and engrossing thriller, but there is much more to it than that.

While the “America” in the novel may sound far-fetched, it is rather too believable for comfort. You can directly extrapolate from some of the events of the past ten years, and see how this could actually have unfolded. And as the story unfolds, it makes you ask yourself some tough questions. In a world where genuine democracy has been taken away and corrupt leaders answer to no-one, how far would you go to try and put things right?  What is right and moral when all of your rights are being trampled on? How do you differentiate between a freedom fighter and a terrorist?

You ponder those things as you read a great story filled with some rich characters. I had no idea how it was all going to end until I got to the last few pages – and I finally got to those pages in the early hours of the morning, as I’d been unable to put the book down.

If you like a thought-provoking, dark, complex thriller, I’d highly recommend this book. An excellent read; I’d rate this 4.5 stars.


For more information on this book, the author, as well purchasing links see Layers of Thought’s Preview for The Army of the Republic.

As always John will be taking all comments for this review, which he enjoys immensely. Please stay tuned since we have been offered an author interview/guest post as well as a giveaway.

Thanks for reading Layers of Thought.


logankstewart said...

Wow, I love both of those covers. This story sounds super appealing. Reading the review reminds me a bit of 1984, which I loved immensely. I'll definitely have to add this to my TBR pile. Thanks!

John D said...

Hi Logan,
The cover is very iconic and super-cool (we have the one on the right with the masked character). I never thought about the 1984 connection but you're right. I hope you enjoy the read when you get around to it.

Anna said...

Sounds fascinating, and I can see how one could see some similarities to real-life events of recent years.

Diary of an Eccentric

John D said...

Hi Anna,
Yes, that was kind of scary. It was one of the things which helped to give the book a real edge.

Charlie said...

"A corrupt government is working in cahoots with major corporations to privatize everything they can in order to line their own pockets."

When I read that line I thought, "This isn't fiction, why did John say this book is fiction?"

Fueled by hate radio and new books by Shawn Hannity and Glenn Beck (both on the bestseller lists), the holy and righteous super-conservative right wingers are ready to "Take America Back." (Boy, that was a long sentence!) Taking it back from whom, however, isn't so clear.

A lot of these wingnuts are downright scary. Would they fight to replace democracy with a theocracy, similar to the Middle East? I think so. Eventually.

Would they meet resistance from the godless left and moderates? Probably not, because these people are non-violent, people-oriented, and politically ignorant.

So I've ranted away here without reading the book, which is not a good idea. Your review, however, was quite good because it got my hackles up.

John D said...

Nothing wrog with a good well-intentoned rant!

You know, Charlie, I thought about you as I read and reviewed this book. I have a funny feeling you might rather like it. You should give it a go if your to-be-read pile isn't too monstrous.

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