Review in Progress: The Third Revolution
planning to experiment with a different review
style -- a running "review in progress" on the
blog, instead of an all-inclusive article
elsewhere -- for some time now. I'm not certain
how the form will work out, but I suspect it may
give me more range to "connect the dots" between
books and current events, and to show how a book
grows on a reader over the course of the
I've chosen Anthony F. Lewis's first novel, The Third Revolution, to begin with. As always, there's a reason: I've been trying to finish the book for some time now, but events unrelated to the book continually drag me away at inopportune moments. So, the different review style fits my schedule, which is a nice way to begin an experiment.
Not that The Third Revolution is easy to put down. Far from it. It's just that every important phone call, unexpected guest and "family emergency" that's come along in the last month has, for some reason, coincided with the times I've picked up the book and opened it. Unless there's some supernatural angle I'm not privy to, however, this doesn't reflect on the novel's quality.
So, here I am, a little less than 100 pages into The Third Revolution ... and already Lewis has addressed no fewer than three matters of current interest to me (and, presumably, to many other libertarians). The novel follows Ben Kane, Libertarian governor of Montana, as the "One Nation" bill faces filibuster and is then passed into law.
What's that, you say? A Libertarian governor? Ah, it's science fiction!
Well, no. Lewis handles the ascent of a Libertarian Party candidate to the position of state executive in a very realistic manner. A well-known, popular restaurant owner, elected to an open seat in the state legislature -- the kind of guy who could have been elected on any party's ticket, not just a perennial paper candidate -- works his way up through fortuitous coincidence (of the kind which happens all the time -- no smoke and mirrors here), by working and playing well with others, and by actively building a constituency outside his district. I hesitate to offer this bit of back story as a blueprint ... but then, from where I sit, it looks an awful lot like Carl Milsted's proposal for a realistic third party strategy, combined with some common sense attributes of a good candidate which Libertarians should be paying attention to (community involvement, name recognition and such prior to seeking office are the big ones).
Bringing out the "One Nation" bill as a parallel to current events may be a bit of a stretch, but not much. In the novel, the bill effectively federalizes a number of government activities formerly falling under the purview of the states. It's not the same issue as the recently adopted "Real ID" act, but some of the same principles(federalism, states' rights, encroaching federal power) are at stake ... and there are similarities between what I foresee developing in the novel and what's hopefully coming together right now with the Real ID Rebellion.
Finally, there's the filibuster. In The Third Revolution, Lewis has a Republican minority in the US Senate threatening one versus the "One Nation" bill. Presumably the "nuclear option" wasn't looming as Lewis penned the book. As I write this, however, the Senate is taking up debate on the judicial nominations which are bringing the issue of filibuster to a head ... and it's nice to be reading a novel that retrospectively predicts a win for the good guys in preserving some minority power in the Senate.
So, where are we ... ah, yes ... the filibuster has flopped, the "One Nation" bill has passed the Senate, and Governor Kane is quickly becoming the central figure in state resistance to its federalization of education, etc. So far, I'm really enjoying this book. Lewis is working firmly within the realm of the plausible, but keeping it interesting. He's also keeping his characters sympathetic, but not perfect. I've not yet managed the deep personal identification with any of the characters that really puts a novel over the top ... but I don't normally do so this early in a novel anyway. I think that's coming.
I'll be back after another 50-100 pages to share my continuing impression. So far, however, I'm enjoying the book very much and heartily recommend it (and I would even if its author wasn't advertising it here!).
WEDNESDAY, MAY 25, 2005
Review in Progress: The Third Revolution, part 2
When last we discussed Anthony F. Lewis's The Third Revolution, I'd read about a hundred pages and was already thinking of it as a pretty solid novel. If I'd known what was coming, I'd have locked myself in a room to forestall any further interruptions.
The first hundred pages of the book are good, solid fiction with a realistic foundation. The rest of it is pure gold -- without sacrificing realism, Lewis cranks up the stress on Governor Ben Kane as Montana and the US government careen toward each other on a collision course. At every point Lewis keeps you wondering who's going to cave and who's going to stand firm. Will the feds blink? Will Montana secede? I'm not telling. The book is plotted too tightly for me to offer a lot of details without spoiling it, but I can tell you that you're in for a ride.
I do, however, want to offer you more than a "buy this book," so I'm going to talk a little bit about sub-plot. The main thrust of the book, as I said, fits together like a Swiss watch, but Lewis did the right thing when he decided to literally surround the core conflict with, of all things, bison and Blackfeet (and Crow, but dammit, I needed the alliteration). Running parallel to, informing, and sometimes intersecting, the conflict between Montana and DC are other stories: The story of a proud people, how they live and what they want after 150 years under the thumb of a far-away bureaucracy. The story of an animal which once roamed -- and might yet again roam -- a vast continent. These stories don't detract from the plot -- they complete it. The Third Revolution would have been at best a middling piece of work without them.
As I mentioned in part one, I hadn't developed a strong identification with any of the characters over the course of the first hundred pages. Lewis's characters take time to grow, and to grow on the reader ... but, over the course of the story, they do. Ben Kane doesn't come off as a plaster philosopher king. As the story proceeds, he's occasionally whiny, never too sure of himself, but ready to get his back up when he knows it needs to be done. He really does wish that he'd stuck to brewing beer and running his restaurant instead of going into politics, especially after a bunch of people like him run for office and ... well, you'll see. Joe Adams, his restaurant manager and right-hand man, also strikes a strong chord with me. Joe's not exactly political, but he isn't apolitical either. He's the man in the middle. He's not everyman, but he's what everyman might be if everyman had a 1972 Norton Commando and some common sense.
I have only one real bitch about The Third Revolution, and it's a minor one: In the last part of the book, a love story begins. It doesn't exactly end; it doesn't even really develop. That may be because the novel's end sets up for a sequel, which Lewis is writing right now and which I'm eagerly anticipating. Until that sequel arrives, though, the love angle (and not the obvious triangle, something I think other readers will also expect) is just ... there ... and it doesn't feel right. Fortunately, it plays such a seemingly minor role in the story that it doesn't really hurt anything. And I think Lewis probably already had something in mind. If that's the only thing wrong with the book -- and, quite frankly, it's the only thing I found wrong with it -- then it's not a real problem. Lewis has succeeded in writing an absorbing, suspenseful, realistic novel about liberty's future.
Sun - April 16, 2006
The Third Revolution (redo)
I've been disappointed with libertarian novels.
Somehow the heros always seem to be in perfect mastery of their emotions with deep reasoning skills. They're full of esoteric martial arts training and know enough about weapons to run their own armory. And of course their charisma and sexual powers are unquestioned.
Except life doesn't work that way. It's messy with all sorts of things left hanging. The good guy doesn't always get the perfect girl, or ANY woman, or even the perfect guy. There are times when even the soundest reasoning runs smack dab into the mob passions.
The Third Revolution by Anthony F. Lewis is different.
The hero is a governor who misses being a state legislator. He misses running his bar and restaurant even more. He doesn't recognize the influence that he has had on other people. In the novel when the Federal government decides to nationalize all functions of State governments, he feels that as governor there isn't a lot he can do.
Fortunately the maverick lawmakers that he has helped inspire don't feel that way.
This novel doesn't go the Rand route and bury you under endless discussions of political philosophy. The characters are practical above all.
And the buffalo. Ah yes, the buffalo.
It's obvious that the author intended the buffalo to be a metaphor for the power of individuals. Big, ponderous, and capable of thriving if only they are left mostly alone.
While the governor makes the right choice, it isn't the easy one. Dealing with the consequences without launching a full scale war, well, that is the mark of adults living in a civilized society.
Posted: Sun - April 16, 2006 at 08:04 PM
I just wanted to send you a quick email and let you know how much I enjoyed
"The Third Revolution" & "Middle America". My dad read them a couple years
ago, and he passed them onto me finally. :-) He is a HUGE fan as well. But
I do have a question. Do you ever plan on writing another Ben Kane book? It
broke my heart when I asked my dad for the third and he responded that
there wasn't one.
Just wanted to let you know I enjoyed them immensely and hope that maybe
one day I'll be reading about Ben Kane again!
January 2, 2012