Power Games: Operation Enduring Unity I by Richard Peters

This book aims to be an update of Dr. Strangelove that plays off of the current gridlock in the United States political system. Regardless of your preferences, no party or PAC comes out smelling like roses. As high as the book aims, it falls short of its goal because of structural issues, a detached tone, and technical errors. That said, it’s still an enjoyable, quick read.

The book makes three assumptions about the United States: (1) those in political office are power hungry fools detached from any semblance of reality; (2) the movers in shakers in the corporate world place far more value on a .05% increase in share value than they do human life; and (3) the 24-hour media purposely distorts the truth to promote extremism and get ratings. These three groups essentially keep grandstanding and manipulating the population until things spiral out of control, ultimately leading to a modern civil war.

Unfortunately, these assumptions have a depressing ring of truth to them, and the author succeeds in showing how all of these factors, coupled with accidents, dumb luck, and stupidity, lay the groundwork for the civil war. Like Dr. Strangelove, a great many of these events are over the top, but they’re believable enough to unsettle the reader. Mr. Peters doesn’t pull any punches and convinces you by the end of the book that a scenario like a civil war is depressingly possible, however outlandish it may seem.

The first big issue with the book is its structure. It’s similar to World War Z in that the author focuses on several different characters and drives the plot via vignettes more than anything else. Unfortunately, the characters are never defined well enough to really put the reader in their shoes. There are too many of them, and the author jumps between different ones in each chapter. It muddles things, and a one chapter, one character structure, as well as fewer perspective characters, would have made the book more cohesive.

There is a reporter in the book, but unlike the one in World War Z, she is only present in some of the chapters, not all of them, which prevents her from serving as a unifying force. And again, since the chapters aren’t labeled, the reader doesn’t quite get a feel for the chapter as quickly as the reader should.

The second problem is the tone: quite often, the author speaks rather than the perspective character, which makes it difficult to really dig down into the characters and setting. Although there is a bit of humor, it doesn’t change the fact that the tone is more a hypothetical an Axis & Allies player runs through between turns than it is a novel. It’s interesting, and the author’s knowledge of modern warfare is impressive, but again, at times I felt like I was reading a thought exercise rather than a book.

The final problem is really a series of issues with the technical writing. I noticed a few mismatched tenses, a few mixed up words, and typos scattered throughout the book. None of it really slowed me down, but I did notice it, and the distraction sapped some of the strength from the story the writing tried to deliver. That said, that sort of thing is really just a matter of practice, and there’s no easy way to learn to write without doing it.

That aside, it was an enjoyable book, and I managed to fly through it in a couple of days between last minute plane flights and poolside lounging. It’s worth taking a peak, because, regardless of its issues, there will be at least one chapter in this book with just enough reality in it to make you uncomfortable and question the current state of affairs in the United States. Accidents, dumb luck, and media-spun hysteria make for a terrifying combination.

I give the book a 3/5. You can pick up a copy of it from Amazon here.

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