Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new six-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Before his retirement in 2016, Dr. Britton taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Learn more about Dr. Britton at his WEBSITE
Author: T.T. MichaelISBN: 978-1517180744
According to Fire War, in the year 2051, the terrorist group Hariq Jihad hit the United States with attacks more deadly than 9/11. Twenty-five years later, fears of these terrorist, along with the voices of the dissenting group called the Apocalytes, inspired U.S. President Frederick J. Meyers to completely rewrite the geopolitical map.
At first, the U.S merged with Canada. Then Meyers bullied Mexico into joining what became the United Continental States of America. Thus, he took care of immigration problems by enforcing the idea that immigrants must enter the country by legal means, and that meant making them citizens where they were. Taking his country to isolationist extremes, Meyers pulled all military troops out of every foreign country and forbade international travel to ensure no terrorist could endanger the UCSA.
Further, Meyers imposed severe travel restrictions within the states to help keep track of all citizens. He had the Second Alien and Sedition Act passed to counter any dissent, blaming the Apocalytes for any disagreement with his policies. National elections disappeared as loyal citizens felt appointed leaders made better sense than elected ones. After all, under Meyers’ leadership, unemployment went away. Mexican drug cartels were allegedly defeated. Then, neighbors started being taken away. Homes were boarded up as family after family seemed to shelter supporters of the Hariq Jihad or Apocalytes. No trials were required when potential terrorism or disloyalty was the alleged crime.
Witnessing all these changes is Gunnery Sergeant Anthony Jackson. He comes to the president’s attention when he kills the assassin of the last President of Mexico and is hired for Meyers’ personal protection. Jackson is a passive, loyal, dedicated follower of all the President’s policies and can’t understand why the erosion of civil liberties should matter when national security is, well, secure. He feels minor twinges of doubt when watching the president bully his subordinates and isn’t entirely sure that all his vanishing neighbors, especially the younger ones, deserve secret imprisonment for often minor infractions. But, over and over, Jackson is sure his government knows best and he angers when he hears any criticism of the leaders he trusts. That is, until his independent-minded teenage daughter forces him to rethink his values.
It’s clear author T.T. Michael is dramatizing his polemic exploring what might happen if Americans lose themselves to fears of terrorism and allow themselves to be pressed into conformity in the name of social calm. While set in the future, the story isn’t futuristic in a science-fiction sense. For example, technology doesn’t seem to have changed in sixty years. Instead, the setting reflects very contemporary problems being discussed in this year’s presidential election.
Much of the story is exposition describing the cultural changes resulting from Meyers’ virtual dictatorship. From time to time, Michael inserts propaganda pieces allegedly published in the new mainstream media. The only character with any development is Jackson, and he lives in such a privileged bubble that he isn’t a true representative of his fellow citizens who are either in fear of the government or bogged down in bureaucratic red-tape. He’s so accepting of what the government does that for most of the book, all he does is reiterate how new ways have replaced the unneeded old Constitution. The only real characteristic for readers to sympathize with is Jackson’s drive to repair his family and be a good father and husband.
I’m certain many readers will be intrigued, and alarmed, by the sadly too plausible scenario Michael paints. If you’re expecting a pot-boiler of a political thriller, you won’t get your monies’ worth. With any luck, Michael’s Fire War will reach those already inclined to surrender to fears of terrorism and allow their civil liberties to erode in the name of security. Michael’s “what if” could be illuminating and mind-changing.