I don’t restrict my reading list to SFF, though a casual glance at my bookcase(s), of which there are three in my bedroom and one downstairs that used to live in my apartment (plus the boxes of books in the basement), shows that it’s pretty predominantly that sort of thing. Naturally, when one pursues a degree in political science, it’s a useful thing to actually have some interest, and so I always enjoy a well-crafted politically-based novel, whether it’s satire or serious. The one in question today is The Scandal Plan.
What do you do when you’re a likeable, accomplished, skilled politician who is failing miserably in the polls against an incumbent who’s an idiot, but the kind of guy that guys want to sit down and have a beer with? Well, you come up with some way to make the politician in question more human. Ben Phillips’s chief adviser decides that the best way to do that is to give him flaws; to give him a scandal. A scandal created is a scandal they can control and use to their advantage. After considering various options such as substance abuse (no good, as the incumbent’s a recovered addict) and no rape and murder (too cliche), they decide the only thing to be done is to have a long-ago sex scandal. With reluctance from Ben Phillips – and his wife – the plan is put into motion and for a while, things proceed as planned. But things like this can take on a life of their own, and when the scandal escalates out of control, it’s not only the presidential bid that’s threatened, but Ben Phillips’s happy marriage.
With a colorful cast of characters including a Mexican-American spy/chauffeur, a high school teen magazine reporter who stumbles onto the biggest story of his life, and a Republican-turned-Democrat chief adviser, The Scandal Plan is a skillful satire of the pre-Obama political scene (which, given it was released in mid-2008, makes sense). While some of the allusions are a bit obvious (who can miss who the former alcoholic and incompetent public speaker is supposed to represent?), and the books is left-leaning, there’s enough here that even those on the other side of the spectrum could find something to laugh at. The various POVs from which it is told are intertwined in an interesting and unpredictable manner. I’ve always been fond of ending a chapter and not knowing which part of the story I’m going to jump to next. More, all of the storylines held equal interest – I’ve read books with multiple POVs where I’ve been tempted to skip a chapter so I can get to the storyline I really like.
I’ve talked about that critical part of my mind that’s appeared lately, and even though I’m trying to learn how to subdue that part of me, it was still well and active as I was reading this. But just as I enjoyed the plot and structure of the book, the book was also well-written by the standards that my mind has created (though I’m still fuzzy as to what they are, to be perfectly honest).
But you know what my favorite part of this book is?
The ending. Never saw it coming.
This one is a must-read for any fans of political satire.