Author James J. Maiwurm offers, in the guise of fiction, a manifesto for dealing with issues facing the U.S. after the 2020 presidential election.
As the story begins, its December 2020. Staunton “Salt” Pepper leaves a career as a government official in D.C. for a small, northern Virginia town. In the aftermath of the January 6 Capitol attack, Salt becomes familiar with his new town’s politics and gets involved with a figure known as Hamilton, head of the local Sons of Liberty who has ambitions for worldwide influence and philanthropy.
Shortly after, the incoming Secretary of State tasks Salt with meeting U.S. allies to shore up their faith in the new administration. These talks expand to Britain, Germany, and Iran, in the company of various officials and an efficient agent named Louise, who wards off attacks on their group by unknown assailants.
The plot provides an excuse for Maiwurm to discuss a litany of international and domestic issues facing the U.S., from abandoned treaties to the opioid crisis. When a character is portrayed in the midst of an active scene, such issues can be engaging; there’s also a poignant reflection on the lasting impact of the COVID epidemic, which claimed the life of Salt’s wife. But generally, these topics arise in stultifying conversations between characters that are dry, lengthy, and often repetitive.
Maiwurm’s obvious goal is to educate readers on the state of the nation, and most scenes involve Salt hearing complaints from members of his new community, proposing reforms in talks with various government agents or Hamilton, and listening to foreign officials and their long lists of resentments toward the temperamental former President Pope and his anarchic administration.
As with most political commentaries, the persuasiveness will vary according to readers’ viewpoints. As issue-driven fiction, however, the novel leans far too heavily on its overt agenda, even for sympathetic readers. Ultimately, Maiwurm’s book works better as a wish list of reforms than as an immersive novel.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.