Thursday, 12 August 2010

The General's President - John Dalmas

The General's President
-John Dalmas

At last the generals were going to get their kind of President. At least that's what they thought...

The stock market crash of 1994 made 1929 look like a minor market adjustment...the rioters of the '90s made the Wobblies look like country-club Republicans...the Vice President of the U.S. resigns in a cloud of scandal - and when the military hints that they may let the lynch mobs through anyway, the President resigns as well. But the President must first propose a new chief executive to succeed him - one approved by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Thus the generals get to pick a President. Imagine their surprise when the President they pick turns out to be his own man...Baen Books – 1990

The plot of this book reassembled Executive Orders (Tom Clancy), although it predates that by some years. The basic plot is similar; the United States is having a large financial and social crisis. Because of the extremity of the crisis Congress decides to allow the president complete authority. Shortly thereafter the president resigns and a new, non-political man becomes president. He then goes on, throughout the rest of the book, to exercise his new dictatorial powers to re-engineer all aspects of American government.

Underneath all of this is a plot by the Soviet government to attack the United States with new technology that allows them to do things like change the weather or cause earthquakes. The Soviet-United States conflict seems to be very secondary to the book. Other conflicts in the book (South Africa, the Archons) also seem to be secondary. So much so that the resolution of the conflict seems like an afterthought rather than a climax in the book. In essence, Dalmas appears to have picked up ideas, tossed them around, and put them down again.

I was rather expecting a military coup from the blurb at the back, but no, that never even comes close to happening.

I encountered the book pretty much by accident. It’s not a bad read in most places. It suffers from having too many different ideas in the plot – soviet movements, aliens, and power generation technology – to do it justice. Coving only the American aspects of the crisis would have made the book simpler and more together. Much of the book consists of transcripts from speeches the new president makes to various organizations outlining the new plan, which can be distracting.

It’s full of interesting ideas. Some you might agree with, others you might hate, but it would make an interesting study-book on changes to government.

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