Monday, May 22, 2017

Douglas J. Wood’s Presidential Declarations: A Book Review

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Douglas J. Wood’s Presidential Declarations is the sequel to his 2014 novel Presidential Intentions, and is the second book in the Samantha Harrison trilogy. While I did not stumble onto this novel on my own and was asked to review the series by Wood’s press team, I found this text to be a worthy sequel that built upon the foundation that Wood established with his freshman effort.

In terms of plot, the novel follows Harrison’s life starting two years post 2016 presidential election, starting with Harrison’s failure to win her state’s senate seat. In the wake of an uncertain future, Eric Cantor, now the Governor of Virginia, nominates Harrison to a recently vacated House seat. Yet, within in weeks of reentering Washington as a lawmaker, Harrison finds herself appointed to the post of Secretary of State for the very president that beat her in the 2016 presidential race. Eyes set on 2020, Harrison struggles to occupy her role for the country while holding on to her political aspirations.

At this point, Harrison enters a twisted and at times entrancing political thriller. Her role places her in danger, sticks her into the hands of Hamas, and allows her to assume control of the country when a terrorist attack decimates Washington D.C. and leaves President Clinton incapacitated. Bombs explode, terrorists are detained, and life goes on. As Vonnegut would say, “So it goes.”

At times, Wood dazzles, especially when he tosses politics aside and focuses on story telling. Instead of debating the success of Obama or Bush era policies, Wood is at his best when he presents a situation, crafts a response, and finally leads both Harrison and the fictional version of the United States through the case study. The bulk of the novel rests in the story, yet these political debates resurface when they hasty 2020 election occurs. That said, holding with Wood’s style, the chapters start with a smattering of politically centered statements, each drawn from Harrison’s political campaigns. At times these segments did well to further characterize Samantha Harrison, but at others they served to distract and delay the true narrative.

While Presidential Intentions darts throughout Harrison’s history, Presidential Declarations follows a linear path through pre, during, and post crisis America. This choice allows one to settle in and enjoy the narrative without working to determine when and where it is coming from. That said, the writer in me cringes from time-to-time as Amanda remains a relatively flat and underdeveloped character and Watts, who is fully flushed out in book one, is reduced to largely a stage prop in this incarnation. In the end, the novel stands as a satisfying sequel to a promising debut.

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