Wednesday, June 13, 2007

REVIEW: Republic by Charles Sheehan-Miles

TITLE: Republic
AUTHOR: Charles Sheehan-Miles
PRICE: $16.95
GENRE: Fiction, Alternative History
ISBN: 978-0-9794114-2-7
PUBLISHER: Cincinnatus Press
POINT OF SALE: Amazon, Lulu

Republic is Charles Sheehan-Miles’ second novel, and it’s an outstanding read. The book opens with a short prologue, and then puts us into the main action, three years later. Ken Murphy is a widowed single parent and middle manager at Saturn Microsystem’s plant in Highview, West Virginia. The plant, recently acquired by a corporate raider, is suddenly shut down, despite being profitable. The factory is by far the largest employer in town, and several hundred people are suddenly laid off with no notice, little recourse and no sympathy. Most people discover that the plant is closed when they pull up to a newly-installed fence, guarded by an armed state trooper. Chapter 1 ends with Murphy thinking that “desperate people do desperate things.”

This is immediately followed by a devastating terrorist bombing in Arlington, Virginia, which quickly involves the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the infantry company commanded by Captain Mike Morris. While Morris’ troops secure the site, DHS conducts a heavy-handed investigation into the bombing, consisting of rounding up Arab males. Back in Highview, the desperate townspeople decide to retake the plant. DHS shows up with armed helicopters and a SWAT team. Shots are fired, and a hundred workers are hauled away as suspected terrorists.

To say that things deteriorate from there is probably an understatement. Sheehan-Miles has delivered a nail-biting suspense thriller, and I can’t discuss much more of the plot without giving it away. I can talk about his outstanding writing and quite scary worldview.

The author extrapolates from our current fetish with terrorism and ham-fisted approaches to it, leading to an America where DHS agents photograph people attending ordinary civic events, and warn them that their mere presence might be construed as a terrorist act. Heaven forbid one is actually suspected of being a terrorist – a summary arrest is the least of one’s worries. It’s also a world where the forces of globalization, greed and special interest politics are hollowing out America. In Republic, corporations and the rich aren’t paying much in taxes, so common people’s tax rates go up and government services go down.

Sheehan-Miles does a great deal of work to avoid cardboard characters. His heroes, like Ken Murphy, aren’t perfect, nor does everybody agree as to the solution to the problem, even in the stricken town of Highview. His villains, especially the corporate raider Nelson Barclay, are a bit two-dimensional, but that may be a limitation from the lack of time on stage.

The book moves with the pace and inexorability of an express train, and not one word is extraneous. For example, Ken Murphy is also in the National Guard, a Lieutenant Colonel commanding an armor battalion. We’re told this early on, and it plays a critical role in the plot.

I highly recommend this book to anybody who enjoys thrillers, suspense or even current affairs. When you start reading, get comfortable, because you won’t be able to put it down. But this book isn’t just literary popcorn – you’ll be thinking of the issues and characters long after the book is finished. Republic is a damn good book, and Charles Sheehan-Miles should be proud of it.

RATING: 10 / 10

reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Chris Gerrib is a resident of Villa Park, IL and Director of Technology for a Chicago-area bank. Chris is the author of the science fiction novel The Mars Run. He holds degrees from the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University and is president-elect of the Rotary Club of Darien, IL.

No comments: