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Politics and Patriotism: the Fisk Conspiracy



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Success Stories

by Justin Oldham

justinoldham.jpg

ISBN: 1587363623
Hats Off Books, 2004
520pp, paperback
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Open Book

Review by Chris Williams

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This is one of the densest novels I've ever read. Justin Oldham is certainly well in control of his material, but I'm not sure I was all of the time.

This is, as the sub-title tells you, a conspiracy novel. The conspiracy is against the political regime of Washington or, possibly, it's on behalf of the American people who are being betrayed by that political system and its corruption. In order to defeat this, an elaborate, and I do mean elaborate, plan is put into place involving getting the most corrupt politicians possible into power so that they will act in such an obviously power-mad way, that the American people will rebel and truth, justice and the American way will re-assert itself. Unlikely? What do you think?

The point of the book, as I see it, is not the destination but the journey. The book ends before the conspiracy has reached its goal. Phase two is only beginning when we turn the last page. The point is whether we enjoy Oldham's driving as we travel.

As I said, I believe him to be very much in command of his material. I think this book is closely planned and the attention to detail is awe-inspiring, if, at times, somewhat wearing. There are just three elements of his style I would like to comment on. The first is his wanting to do too much. Here is one paragraph taken completely at random:

"According to you." Sucking lightly on the lemon wedge, the young driver held the fruit between two fingers. The anger in his voice was matched by the fury that played over his face. I know things are bad, but who put you in charge?

We have speech, we have description of both action and emotion and we have thought, all in a four sentences. If this was a one off, not a problem but it's constant, paragraph after paragraph and page after page in what is a long, 509-page, novel. I actually got lost in the detail simply because there was so much of it.

Secondly, the set pieces, such as the opening attempt on Fisk's (the main character in the conspiracy) life. They go on too long and are overly analysed by too many people from too many points of view. It just reduces the excitement that the scene should be generating.

And lastly, I wish Oldham wouldn't do the following: "An agenda. Do you know what you sound like?" Fisk smirked. "A bad novel…" If only this was just a half-baked novel.

This is just bad cliché. It's done in films: "Do you think this is a film?" and here it's done in a novel, although not one I think is either bad or half-baked. It's just one of those things that destroys my involvement.

The above aside, this is an impressive work and if anyone wants to delve into Washington politics and its deviousness, please try this. There is far more good about this book than there is bad.