Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Review in Progress: The Third Revolution


I've been planning to experiment with a different review style -- a running "review in progress" on the blog, instead of an all-inclusive article elsewhere -- for some time now. I'm not certain how the form will work out, but I suspect it may give me more range to "connect the dots" between books and current events, and to show how a book grows on a reader over the course of the reading.

I've chosen Anthony F. Lewis's first novel, The Third Revolution, to begin with. As always, there's a reason: I've been trying to finish the book for some time now, but events unrelated to the book continually drag me away at inopportune moments. So, the different review style fits my schedule, which is a nice way to begin an experiment.

Not that The Third Revolution is easy to put down. Far from it. It's just that every important phone call, unexpected guest and "family emergency" that's come along in the last month has, for some reason, coincided with the times I've picked up the book and opened it. Unless there's some supernatural angle I'm not privy to, however, this doesn't reflect on the novel's quality.

So, here I am, a little less than 100 pages into The Third Revolution ... and already Lewis has addressed no fewer than three matters of current interest to me (and, presumably, to many other libertarians). The novel follows Ben Kane, Libertarian governor of Montana, as the "One Nation" bill faces filibuster and is then passed into law.

What's that, you say? A Libertarian governor? Ah, it's science fiction!

Well, no. Lewis handles the ascent of a Libertarian Party candidate to the position of state executive in a very realistic manner. A well-known, popular restaurant owner, elected to an open seat in the state legislature -- the kind of guy who could have been elected on any party's ticket, not just a perennial paper candidate -- works his way up through fortuitous coincidence (of the kind which happens all the time -- no smoke and mirrors here), by working and playing well with others, and by actively building a constituency outside his district. I hesitate to offer this bit of back story as a blueprint ... but then, from where I sit, it looks an awful lot like Carl Milsted's proposal for a realistic third party strategy, combined with some common sense attributes of a good candidate which Libertarians should be paying attention to (community involvement, name recognition and such prior to seeking office are the big ones).

Bringing out the "One Nation" bill as a parallel to current events may be a bit of a stretch, but not much. In the novel, the bill effectively federalizes a number of government activities formerly falling under the purview of the states. It's not the same issue as the recently adopted "Real ID" act, but some of the same principles (federalism, states' rights, encroaching federal power) are at stake ... and there are similarities between what I foresee developing in the novel and what's hopefully coming together right now with the Real ID Rebellion.

Finally, there's the filibuster. In The Third Revolution, Lewis has a Republican minority in the US Senate threatening one versus the "One Nation" bill. Presumably the "nuclear option" wasn't looming as Lewis penned the book. As I write this, however, the Senate is taking up debate on the judicial nominations which are bringing the issue of filibuster to a head ... and it's nice to be reading a novel that retrospectively predicts a win for the good guys in preserving some minority power in the Senate.

So, where are we ... ah, yes ... the filibuster has flopped, the "One Nation" bill has passed the Senate, and Governor Kane is quickly becoming the central figure in state resistance to its federalization of education, etc. So far, I'm really enjoying this book. Lewis is working firmly within the realm of the plausible, but keeping it interesting. He's also keeping his characters sympathetic, but not perfect. I've not yet managed the deep personal identification with any of the characters that really puts a novel over the top ... but I don't normally do so this early in a novel anyway. I think that's coming.

I'll be back after another 50-100 pages to share my continuing impression. So far, however, I'm enjoying the book very much and heartily recommend it (and I would even if its author wasn't advertising it here!).

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