A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
Six weeks before the 2012 US Presidential election, Democratic candidate David Windsor is outed — and he does not deny it. Against the odds, he narrowly wins, and hence begins the first term of the first gay President and return to Democratic governance in twelve years. Challenges and threats both at home and abroad come along with the job, it seems, and by his side is Secret Service Agent Shane Thompson, with whom Windsor shares a strong attraction.
Condor One Series
Condor One — referring to the Secret Service code name for the new president — is a fairly fast-paced erotic/romantic political thriller. Beginning six weeks before the election and ending about two weeks into his term of office, it is a pretty in-depth look at the transition period and inauguration of a new President, plus the issues that a new Leader of the Free World could face, especially if that person is a minority. There is action, political intrigue, behind-the-scenes deals, and secret love affairs.
It is fitting — and completely inadvertent — that I re-read Condor One and am beginning to write this review on Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day, a historic event in America. I found the subject matter fascinating and extremely topical, and if for no other reason, I liked this book for that reason. Though the story was written well before current real world events, I was very interested to see the parallels to Obama and his campaign and transition. Both are the Democratic candidate, both are young and charismatic, both are minorities, both have strong opposition to their minority. They even say some things that are similar in speeches to the American public. I felt I was able to follow along today (read, Tuesday, the 20th) with some of the proceedings based on what I read in this book. I first read it in October of this past year and this story sat with me for a long time, one that I keep coming back to. Perhaps this is because of the reasons above, but maybe it is just a wish and hope that this particular glass ceiling could someday be shattered.
Suspending one’s disbelief is par for the course when reading/watching fiction; sometimes it is very difficult, sometimes not, and here I did not have a problem imagining this being a possible reality. There has been Republican rule in this country for at least eight long, dark years. There are wars raging in the Middle East. There are hateful people, situations and circumstances that are dangerous for someone both living both an alternative lifestyle and/or is in a position of power. Because of this, I felt that the story was believable.
It is obvious that Simpson brings to the story not only his long and extensive background of award-winning service in security and protection, both at the local and national level, but also very strong political statements. I agree with other reviewers that Simpson must have had a fun time penning a world to his own liking, and as someone who shares much of his political views, I had fun reading about that world.
I thought the sex was fairly tame and vanilla, and that it and the romantic elements take a much lesser role in the story, but that’s not necessarily bad. I don’t need hot, steamy, kinky sex page after page. Also, based on some other reviews, I had anticipated a “playboy” President, one who had multiple partners coming and going through a revolving door in his bedroom, both during the campaign and after, but this is not the case. In fact, David seems very aware of perception and the risk of getting caught.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
I think my biggest issue by far — and what kept me from rating this book higher — was the writing style. Simpson penned the book using two different alternating formats: one being usually long, descriptive paragraphs with no dialog included, the other being dialog with no (or very, very few) accompanying descriptives. It is difficult to explain without examples, so I invite you to review the first chapter, which is available online on his site: http://johnsimpsonbooks.com/books/condor_one_ch_01.html.
Perhaps it is just me — and I welcome feedback and the opportunity to be told I’m nuts — but it felt jarring to me. It was like I couldn’t relax and get sucked into the story. Plus, there were times during the dialog parts that I lost track as to who was speaking (since there were few accompanying descriptives), and I had to go back to the first quote, place who started talking, then go through the conversation again.
Additionally, I never really connected to the characters nor truly felt their emotions. It read cold and emotionless to me, almost clinical. As I read the story, the voice in my head — and don’t tell me you don’t have an internal voice when reading to yourself! — actually spoke in monotone, as if I was reading a textbook. I felt like they were far away from me and that I wasn’t really in the story. I especially felt this during the dialog chunks, where there were little to no descriptives about anything else going on with them. Take the aftermath of one of the several sex scenes, where David and Shane are talking and thanking each other for the fantabulous ride (g): are they touching or moving at all? Is someone stroking the other as is common after sex? Is there the calming of once heavy breathing or sweat or rumpled sheets or glances or smiles? I really didn’t get that feeling of intimacy of that scene from what is written.
I also had a problem, though to a lesser degree, with the first person narration because there are a few times we become privy to conversations and events that happen outside of David’s line of sight. We were given access to the secret meetings of the Bad Guys, another character’s visit to the Lincoln Memorial, what happened during some arrests. True first person narration would not permit us the reader, much less himself, to have that view. I was taken aback when it happened, and I found myself saying “Now how did he know that?”
My last issue — and this was relatively minor — is that it all seemed Mary Sue-ish. Neither protag seems to have faults or flaws (or at least, we are not shown any). Both are perfect versions of themselves: beautiful, smart, charming, sexy, strong, kind, honorable, excellent at what they do. Because of this, I had some problems with the characters’ believability.
It figures that the first review to do for the blog is of a book that I have had some of the most mixed feelings. g I wanted to like this book so much — and in many ways I did — but as you read, I had several problems with it. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t even dislike it, but I didn’t love it. Now, you may read this review and say “how could you possibly like it at all based on all those negatives?” That’s a fair question, and what I could answer is that, despite the format, despite my failure to completely connect to the characters, I found the subject and depth of knowledge strong enough to make it a decent read for me. It may not be one of my DIKs or even one that goes in my “great” pile, but one that I would revisit from time to time and recommend to others, especially if you have interest in politics.