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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Taft 2012


Jason Heller and Quirk Books have timed the release of Heller’s debut novel, Taft 2012, perfectly.  Because we live in an era in which the “race for president” clamors for our attention three out of every four years, most of us have, at some point or another, longed for simpler times.  Now, just when things are really heating up again, along comes Taft 2012, an alternate history exploring what might happen if we were to get at least part of our wish.

It seems that William Howard Taft, America’s 27th president, disappeared on the very morning in 1913 that his successor, Woodrow Wilson, was inaugurated.  He was never seen again – until the 2011 morning that, covered in dirt and mud, he stumbles into the White House Rose Garden.  Perceived as a serious security threat, this bear of a man is wounded by a Secret Service agent assigned to protect the White House’s current resident.  After DNA testing confirms his target’s identity, this same agent will be assigned to protect the man he shot, 154-year-old William Howard Taft.  That is when the fun starts.

William Howard Taft
Taft is understandably shocked by the modern world he wakes up in, but his natural curiosity and adaptability serve him well.  Not long after being introduced to his congresswoman great-granddaughter and her family, he is appearing on a CNN-like network to be presented to the world – and the world likes what it sees.  That is when the “draft Taft,” movement first makes itself felt, eventually leading to an all-Taft, third-party ticket to take on the establishment candidates offered by the Democrat and Republican parties.

The first half of Taft 2012, during which Taft learns about all the technological and social changes to the world he woke up in, is its strongest half.  Even though he is not nearly as shocked by the changes as one might expect, it is still great fun to watch Taft’s initial reaction to things like cell phones and Google.  Too, Taft’s first contact with “the public” is often humorous and touching.  The book’s second half, a more serious look at Taft’s struggle with modern politics and what is being asked of him, suffers a bit in comparison.

Jason Heller
Regular readers of alternate history know that one has to leave “disbelief” at the door.  Others may need to keep reminding themselves that a suspension of disbelief is one of the requirements if they are to enjoy books like this one.  Taft 2012 is a mix of political satire, alternate history, and humor.  More importantly, especially considering the current political environment, this one makes politics fun again – in only for a little while.

Rated at: 4.0
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