By Oliver North
Threshold Editions, $26, 416 pages
The spirit of George Orwell's "1984" returns five decades later in Oliver North's most recent novel, "Heroes Proved." It is 2032, and the progressive agenda is triumphant. Public expressions of religious faith are deemed hate speech and are prosecutable offenses. Privately owned firearms are strictly regulated, and gas costs more than $10 a gallon because of federal restrictions on domestic oil exploitation. The Great Recession continues, and the new presidential goal is to reduce unemployment to 10 percent. Through a Big Brother-like system every citizen is required to have implanted, the government can monitor the movement of anyone it chooses. Americans with the means to do so have fled the country, but a small band of well-to-do patriots have elected to stay and try to reverse the tidal wave of nanny-state tyranny.
Although the novel was written before the attack in Benghazi, Libya, the plotline is strikingly similar to recent events. A president whose re-election campaign is hotly contested faces a deadly terrorist attack that appears to have come from an Islamic source she has coddled. To deflect blame for the attack (because her administration has gutted the security establishment) she tries to pin the failure on domestic conservatives, dubbed "Anarks." An Anark is anyone who tries to evade the authority of the nanny state by home-schooling his children, maintaining firearms or growing non-USDA-approved foods. When the cover-up begins to unravel, the president uses post-Sept. 11 measures originally designed to fight real terrorism to cover up her culpability. She sets up the CEO of one of the nation's top defense firms as the patsy.
Like Mr. North, the protagonist is a Naval Academy graduate and decorated Marine Corps veteran who left the service after being involved in a political controversy. Like Mr. North, he also is a dedicated family man and devout evangelical Christian. The support of his family and close family friends during the crisis is a centerpiece of the book. Mr. North has published a number of books, both fiction and nonfiction. Today, he is known best as a conservative talk-show host and Fox News commentator.
Mr. North uses the techno-thriller venue to make some points about the danger of well-meaning legislation that empowers government to do things the framers of the Constitution did not envision. This empowerment of the government, whatever good intentions are behind it, can be very dangerous in the hands of unscrupulous persons such as the fictional president in this story.
Mr. North is skillful at showing how good intentions can go wrong. Most of the truly bad things that happen in the book are put in place in nascent form or are liberal proposals. Immigration reform is used to craft a permanent progressive majority in Congress by buying the votes of illegal immigrants. Restrictions on gas and oil exploitation have made America dependent on oil imports from potentially hostile states. Home-schooling and public displays of religious belief are deemed anti-American.
One subtheme of the book is that overreliance on technology in intelligence-gathering as a substitute for human intelligence is very dangerous. Too often the government is blinded by a lack of knowledge of things going on where drones and satellites cannot see. Another element is the tendency of government to employ technology to overly supervise American citizens. In this book, a citizen's tracking device is also his debit card -- a truly dangerous notion.
Some readers who pick up this book for casual entertainment may be put off by the overtly religious themes stressed in the story, but the book is a page turner that likely will override the objections of all but the most secular of casual readers. The plotline moves briskly and might give less conservative readers pause to consider the serious issues the book tackles in a fictional format.
"Heroes Proved" will not be read by liberals or many moderates simply because of the author's conservative credentials. This is too bad, as it provides such readers an opportunity to ponder the potential unintended consequences of their prize programs. The people who really should read the book are the 3 million registered Republicans who sat out the last election because Mitt Romney was not conservative enough, because they disapproved of his religion, or because they have become cynical about the entire political process. In this story, evil has gotten as far as it has because good men and women have done nothing.
Gary Anderson is a retired Marine Corps colonel and an adjunct professor at George Washington University.