THE X PRESIDENT

Philip Baruth, Author, Philip E. Baruth, Author . Bantam $11.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-553-80294-8

In Baruth's (The Dream of the White Village; The Millennium Shows) imaginative novel, the year is 2055, and Bill Clinton—still hearty at 109 and referred to here as BC—has screwed everything up. As a result of two independent and reasonable actions in BC's presidency—expanding NATO and encouraging the (fictitious) Anti-Tobacco accord, which pushed Big Tobacco into foreign markets—the world has been thrust into the brutal, endless Cigarette Wars. Terrorist bombings are a matter of course, as is constant and invasive government surveillance; everywhere there's a sense of impending doom. BC, whose life has been prolonged by biotechnology, has not been treated kindly by history, and so he recruits loner Sal Hayden to write his definitive biography. Enter "James" (for Carville), "George" (for Stephanopoulos) and "Virginia," code-named members of the National Security Council, who have a much grander plan for historical revisionism. Kidnapping Sal, the group travels to 1963 and then to 1995, beginning a series of maneuvers to rewrite history. The mission is not without its snags, Sal's occasionally abrasive personality being one, and the weirdness of it all—a teenaged BC ("yBC") being seduced by an NSC operative and slowly being manipulated into changing the future BC's decisions—makes for page-turning reading. Baruth's facility for leaking and withholding information helps sustain interest, although the story is almost too neat at times. A disappointingly vague ending mars this interesting blend of satire and sci-fi. (Nov. 11)

Forecast: Readers who thought Primary Colors was too tame will appreciate this wacky speculative fantasy, and Friends of Bill with a sense of humor will be delighted to spend more quality time with James, George and BC.

Reviewed on: 09/29/2003
Release date: 11/01/2003
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