So long time ago when I was a teenager, I would read a bunch of Tom Clancy. Those books were great. The books were timely, especially at the height of the Cold War. The Clancy novels were sprawling, quick and engrossing. The Hunt For Red October was his debut novel and he followed it up with Red Storm Rising (which was my personal favorite — as it envisioned WW3 between the US and the Soviet Union — teenage boys like seeing the world get fucked up — I think I was also on a run of post-apocalyptic literary run at this time). Those books and all of those that came afterwards were suffused with a level of miltiary-technical detail that was amazing to bask in at the time.
Then I went to college. I majored in English Literature.
After graduation I tried reading another Clancy novel — I want to say it was a Rainbox Six novel and I couldn’t do it. I had become a literary snob.
So no more Clancy for me. It was the end of an era. And damn you college for changing me. It happens.
So in this time of uncertainty and fear (in all arenas, but especially geopolitically), I came across a book review of “The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks Against the United States” by Jeffrey Lewis in the New York Times. What a title! I mean, no one’s going to ask what the hell is the book about? Read the title!
It’s a provocative title. And while one may not judge a book by its cover, the title is everything. (I mean, I jumped on Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America because of the title. And it was a good book. Because it’s Philip Roth). And enough to suck me in.
I’m not going to get into any real detail about it, because other than the premise (which is in THE TITLE), the joy in reading the book is how everything unfolds. Like the aforementioned Tom Clancy novels, it’s a fast read. But Jeffry Lewis’s novel has a certain humanity that Mr. Clancy strove for, but failed to really achieve in his novels. And the writing is much better. Even for a liberal arts education literary snob. And it’s written in the fashion of a commission report (much like the 9/11 Commission — which despite it’s official nature and tragic outcome — was riveting).
The crucial conceit of the book (which I loved) is that everything up to August 2018 IS TRUE and BASED ON FACT. Then everything after that goes on afteward that point in time is attributable to Mr. Lewis’s clever imagination. So it involves a certain President whose name we dare not speak.
So the book is able to straddle the line between a thoughtful thriller to biting satire (but it’s sooo real). Then it takes a turn.
I want to really recommend this book. Please find a copy at your local non-Amazon bookstore and read it. It’s timely and most importantly, will allow you to enjoy a good old fashioned summer beach reading experience and to shut that post-college affected literary snob that yearns for something learned and refreshing.