Thursday, January 3, 2013

2029: Third Term--Tim Wuebker (e-book review)

I haven't been accepting many review books lately--the pile, and the pressure to finish a book I may not be that into, gets too high very quickly. But, as a writer myself, I want to support newly published authors. Every so often I get a personable email that leads me to give in to temptation, against my better judgement.

So, I accepted a thriller for review. I don't generally read thrillers, which makes me a poor judge of them. I also don't read e-books, but, the author was nice enough to offer to print me out a copy. Having read the first chapter online, I hoped this would be the exception to my Thrillers Don't Thrill Me rule.

In 2029, America is under a left wing extremist government, unemployment is at an all time high, mandatory birth control encourages sexual promiscuity, while parenthood is not allowed until after age 24, and even then, no more than two children are allowed. This regime imposes on the values of the devoutly Catholic, hard-working Thatcher family whose two sets of twins are finding this conflict harder to navigate as they become teens and young adults. Twenty-two year old Ryan gets involved with a subversive group hoping to replace the current president through a popular vote, and soon the whole family is embroiled in a scenario that is dangerous both to themselves and to the country's citizens.

2029 has all the elements of a good thriller, and I loved that the point of view moves between family members, making the entire family the protagonist of this novel. The stakes are high, and the action is fast-paced, as the family takes on terrorists and the government. That's what people do in thrillers, of course. I'm reminded of one of my early graphic novel reviews, for Skim:
What do you bet authors hate it when reviewers admit to not really digging their genre and then proceed to review their book anyway? "It was too, I dunno . . . graphic novel-ish. But other than that, I guess it was okay."
The reason I don't read thrillers is because the books that are most compelling to me are character-driven realistic fiction. Thrillers are generally plot-driven. What that means, in this case, is that I wanted the characters to be a little more flawed, so they'd have someplace to grow. I was drawn in by the plot to a point, but, I wanted more than plot. I wanted the siblings to make stupid mistakes and piss each other off and then work things out. I wanted one of them to have to deal with an inconvenient pregnancy, or to suspect their mother of having an affair, or to realize their best friend was gay, so that they would re-examine their oh-so-wholesome values under a new lens. In other words, if this thriller had been character-driven fiction that was complicated by a little thriller-ness, I would have been happy. But then it wouldn't have been a thriller.

No doubt, if I tried to write a thriller, readers would be frustrated by my insistence on my characters having heart to heart chats en route to the White House so they could get all their feelings out onto the table before rescuing the president from terrorists (who in the meantime would be having their own heart to hearts, resolving long-standing issues that would probably end up with them deciding not to be terrorists after all. They really wanted to be dentists, like the elf in Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer).

If you're a person who likes thrillers and you have a Kindle, I recommend giving 2029 a try. As for me, I am almost inspired now to sit down and write that thriller in which the terrorists decide in the end to go to dental school instead of blowing up the White House.


  1. This sounds like a dystopian thriller. I do like thrillers because, as much as I love great characters, I HAVE to have plot. I give you a lot of credit for reading out of your comfort zone.

  2. Plot definitely has its merit, don't get me wrong! But it's great characters and how they interact with the situations and each other that really draws me in.

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