Thursday, April 26, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Homeland by Paul William Roberts

“At the end of WWII we were the only great power left unscathed by the carnage. We could have used this advantage for peace. Instead we started another war, which consumed the minds and the money that could have made America the earthly paradise.” – Homeland (pg. 49)

The year is 2050 and the United States has reinvented itself as a paranoid super-state, sealing itself off from the rest of the world. After the end of the Cold War, the efforts of the United States Military were focused inward and a policy of isolationism was implemented. For reasons of National Security, the President and Vice President are no longer publicly identified.

Most of America’s cities have faded and much of the country is a wasteland. Due to global warming, New York City is now underwater and operates as a theme park. Washington, DC is visited only by those on official business. David Leverett, a former policy advisor who played a major role in the development of the policies which have led to the current state of affairs. As last remaining player in these events, Leverett reflects on his role from the end of the Carter era to present and in the process exposes the backroom dealings and power plays which led to America’s destruction and rebirth as US-Global.

Homeland, Paul William Roberts’ new novel, is a cautionary tale against the Hobbesian belief in vogue with the current American administration, that “might makes right.” Drawing upon historical events and real people, Roberts weaves together a disturbing dystopian vision of our future; one which seems all too possible if the current policy for National Security continues. The belief that American must always be the most powerful military force is taken one step further in Homeland, as Leverett and his colleagues implement a foreign policy of preemptive wars/action; that is, deal with all potential threats before they become a problem.

Presented as the diary of Leverett, Homeland reads like a course on political philosophy and even includes policy briefing documents. The first third is very discursive on various schools of political theory, leading the reader through Leverett’s political education during his early years in Washington.

What is most compelling about this novel is the window it presents on the happenings between the last months of President Carter’s term and the presidency of George W. Bush. Homeland is one of the first anti-Iraq War novels, as Tony Christini states in his thoughtful essay its “focus is important.” He suggests that too little public-themed fiction is being published and that: “Fiction by way of its aesthetic charge, its conceptual flexibility, and its potent personal focus is one of the most powerful means available for cutting people and their ideas down to size, or conversely, for lifting them up – for halting and for propagating.” No matter that Homeland isn’t a conspiracy thriller as traditionally imagined by readers, there is enough here to give even the most jaded politico pause.

Perhaps the most disturbing theory expounded in Homeland is this: “you know, there’s a small number of men who know the detailed truth; the masses are told what they need to know and no more…Free inquiry outside the bounds of revelation is dangerous.” (pg. 82) Given the amount of controversy this novel is sure to engender, Roberts’ decision to propel readers outside the boundaries is a brave one. Whether he will find the audience and attention this book deserves is another matter entirely.

ISBN10: 1552638189
ISBN13: 9781552638187

303 Pages
Publisher: Key Porter Books
Publication Date: September 15, 2006


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