One Nation Under George by Z.M. Wagner
Infinity Publishing.Com, 2005, $11.95, 133pp
ISBN 0-7414-2540-8
This review first appeared on Infinity Plus
Come on, let’s be honest: most people outside the USA dislike George W. Bush. Hell, the majority of people in the USA dislike George W. Bush, and still he remains in charge there, so why is this? How has such an apparently unpopular leader swung it so that he remains leader? Well, Z.M. Wagner’s look at the later years of Dubya’s presidency, One Nation Under George, follows the progress of the man and his government from the end of 2004 all the way through to 2008.

Considering we’ve already lived through 2005 and half of 2006, it’s perhaps surprising that One Nation Under George doesn’t seem dated; in fact the newly ‘historical’ sections still read rather well. This is mainly because Wagner is writing more in the style of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal than, say, Heinlein’s Future History series. We’re not looking at hard sf predictions here, but rather at satirical creation, a look at what we might expect if this sort of thing carries on.

Told from the point of view of an ordinary American writing his memoirs of the changes wrought by Dubya and friends, our narrator is an everyman figure, not too smart but not too dumb either, and also what we in the UK call a ‘floating voter’ - one who has no great political loyalties either way, but rather tends to decide on the spur of the moment. His opinions of Dubya fluctuate a little but he’s always able to see the necessity of the president’s freedom-curtailing measures in an increasingly religious New America, only perhaps regretting his apathy, Pastor Martin Niemöller-style, when his own private life is eventually affected.

One Nation Under George is a wry read, told in a well-balanced tone that is impeccably maintained. I’m not sure I haven’t seen the same idea executed slightly better in various comment pieces in the UK Guardian newspaper, but to be fair I think they were better primarily because they were shorter and punchier – the comedic and satirical energy of Wagner’s story is spread over too many pages to have quite the same impact. Also, whilst this is, again, like A Modest Proposal, a book that you might think people should read - if only to point out the inherently inviting nature of slippery slopes and thin-ends-of-wedges - I didn’t come out of One Nation Under George feeling angry or any more motivated or revolted, as one still does with A Modest Proposal, even now.

This is a book that’s smart, worthwhile and occasionally humorous, but in the end is perhaps a bit too ‘nice’ for its own good.

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