‘Campaign 2100: Game Of Scorpions’ actually opens with the end of Campaign 2096 on Friday January 20th when Corbin Dubois is about to take over as President of Earth. He has been elected, thanks to the cunning work of Toby and Lara Platt, a father-daughter team of cut-throat political operatives who stop at nothing. Toby has decided to quit but the President won’t let him, promising to ruin not only his career but Lara’s, too, if he tries. Nice. Toby’s thought that the word ‘politics’ comes from ‘poly’ – meaning many – and ‘tics’ – meaning bloodsuckers – is probably not original to him but made me laugh anyway.
Cut to July 27, 2100 and the President is planning his campaign for the next election. After a nuclear war, a New Israel was founded near Utah but the Jews and the Mormons have never got on. The latter outnumber the former, more votes and the campaign contributions from the Jews are already in so now’s the time to turn on them and get those Mormons turning out for Dubois. So calculates Lara. Toby is disappointed and reflects that he should have taken the drug Eth which removes moral constraints and makes political choices much easier. He has given it up after it led to getting Dubois elected.
Then a black, spherical alien spaceship lands in New York city. The president might greet them cordially and, if all goes well, look like a true statesman. On the other hand, he likes to play the tough cowboy and look strong so it might be better to blast them to hell. Dubois takes the tough option and Toby finally resigns and decides to run for president himself. The alien survives the attack.
This much plot is given away on the back cover, so I’m not spoiling it. The background to Hodges’ future is a logical extension of our own time. There have been nuclear wars in those parts of the world where we all expect it might happen. Earth’s wealthiest man sets up world government by simply buying all the politicians and makes himself the first global president. Someone develops virtual reality so good that billions go for it and the economy collapses due to lack of a workforce. This detailed history makes Toby Platt’s present more believable.
There’s an interesting cast of characters. Toby is a likeable character and his friend and campaign manager Bruce is hugely entertaining, the sort of second lead you almost wish was the star like Garibaldi in ‘Babylon 5’. The alien, Twenty-Two, is good fun. She serves the same function as Mork in the television show and Michael Valentine Smith in Heinlein’s ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’. Heinlein is quoted a couple of times, showing that Hodges knows his classics. That said, Twenty-Two also reveals that politics is a tricky game at the galactic level, too, and by no means perfect.
There are so many good things in this novel that I’m bursting to share them but that would spoil it for the first time reader. Larry Hodges ‘updates’ the US political system to cover the whole world in the future which gives him a nice tool to give it a kicking in the present day. I’m sure lots of Science Fiction fans are interested in politics so this should appeal to many. Obviously, you can be interested in the machinations of our elected leaders without having any great love for them. You can even belong to a political party and work for it with no illusions in the pragmatic belief that the lesser of the two evils is the best option.
My favourite quote in the book was from Twenty-Two and it was strictly speaking not political or it addressed the biggest political question we face. Told that the Mormons outbreed the Israelis and so have more voting power, she is surprised that mere breeding gives a group power. She already knows that her hosts don’t have the capability for interstellar space flight to colonise other worlds. Then she finds out that there is no form of population control on Earth. ‘Then you are doomed,’ she says.
Anyway, it’s a marvellous book. Easy reading, fast-paced, lots of surprise plot twists, likeable heroes, a loveable alien and a gripping climax that takes the election right to the wire. Highly recommended.
(pub: World Weaver Press. 424 page paperback. Price: £10.74 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-69265-748-5)
check out website: www.worldweaverpress.com/