Raise the Gipper! is a satire about the forthcoming American presidential elections (The Gipper is a nickname given to the late ex-president and former actor Ronald Reagan) and plays on the current political climate to great effect.
The story goes that the Republicans - who are currently fronting multi-millionaire Mitt Romney for president - declare an open mutiny against Mitt (cunningly known as the Mitt Mutiny) based on the reasoning that a) he doesn't adequately represent their conservative views, b) he's a dull gazillionaire with no real chance when the elections begin in November and c) they'd much rather be working at an old folks home cleaning underwear with their teeth.
Step forward the quite brilliant political guru Dr. Bayle Brazenydol who presents them with an impossible alternative, their dream candidate that has already served 2 terms as president and just happens to be quite, quite dead. Not letting a little thing like the fact that the ideal president is in fact a worm ridden rotting hunk of meat, Dr Brazenydol is quite confident that after being animated, good ol' Gipper will once again rule the most powerful nation on earth.
It's also quite clear that the good Doctor is not quite what he seems and may in fact be controlled by a monstrous alien bent on taking over the Earth and devouring every living thing as a light snack.
Joe and Aura make up the unlikely heroes of the story; she's a passionate "Occupier" while he is a "Tea Party" activist, drawn together through a love of cats, pizza, and a good argument. It's going to take a lot more than an argument to save mankind from the unspeakable evil though, a heck of a lot more.
We've long been a fan of John Barnes here at SFBook, TC reviewed 11 of his works while looking after the website and so when the author himself contacted me to review this book I jumped at the chance. The idea harks back to times when dozens of political satire novels would appear every time there was a race for the oval office, many of which became best sellers; something that is sadly missing today. It's a very brave move by the author to create a book that's so topical and politically biting and then go and self-publish it so it's fresh and as relevant as can be.
Being from old Blighty gave me the chance to read this more objectively than the average American may have done and I have to say that Barnes has created a wonderfully rich and laugh out loud funny story that manages to poke fun at both ends of the political spectrum, although as I am sure you can understand political humour by it's very definition is biased and here it is largely directed at the Romney led Republicans. Barnes manages to satire without being scathing or being overly cruel while the insight into the American political machine is quite fascinating.
The humour is intelligent, insightful and has a dry edge that stops before it becomes overt sarcasm and it's all told in such a friendly, energetic and charismatic manner that is a joy to read. The story is inventive and there are some absolute classic moments, it's one of those novels that reads really fast too; the pace pretty hectic and unbound by back-story or excessive character building. The book isn't that long either with little wasted space which means you can get through it in little more than a day or two.
John said, "I see," because he didn't. He wanted desperately to know what everyone was talking about but he knew that if they knew that he didn't know, they'd know not to let him know, and he'd never know.
Did I mention it features Cthulhu "Great old ones"? It's a stroke of genius that manages to fit the presidential elections, Cthulhu, Zombies, Mitt Romney and evil alien space bats and still finds room for an old fashioned love story too. The Alien Space Bats (ASB) bit is simply inspired and manages to highlight the use of ASB as a neologism for plot devices used in alternate history novels (like this one) to create a departure point that would otherwise be seen as implausible. Like Ken McLeod did in his Hugo nominated novel Learning the World, ASB is used very much as an "in-joke", a MacGuffin or plot device designed to catch the viewers' attention.
Raise the Gipper! is one of those books that manage to highlight some very real messages while at the same time entertain with totally off-the-wall humour, capturing the attention of even those whose only interest in politics is to vote every few years or so.
You know what I say? Cthulhu for President, why vote for the lesser evil?.
Written by Antony, 07 June 2012.