Toxic Politics with Brian O’Sullivan
It’s no secret the political climate in the United States has been rather tense to, say the least, since the election of Donald Trump as president. It certainly wasn’t perfect before, but in the last year there has been a marked increase in both internal and external conflicts, not to mention the accusations flying about left and right. Needless to say, such a controversial topic has elicited countless people to share their opinions and express their feelings in one way or another. American author Brian O’Sullivan is certainly one of those people who chose a more creative route, turning his thoughts into a novel titled The Puppeteer .
The premise of the story doesn’t take very long to unfold as we are introduced to Frankie Waters whose dying uncle makes a fateful request: to investigate a crime which took place many years ago. With the help of the talented Evie, Frankie digs deeper and deeper into a plot which looks more and more like a conspiracy with every further step he takes. It doesn’t take long for the duo to begin suspecting a menace from the far-right seeking to gain power while remaining in the shadows. Now, someone has a powerful incriminating material on the president himself, and they are prepared to take full control. With very few people they can trust, Frank and Evie forge onwards against an enemy with seemingly limitless power and resources, with the future and possibly survival of the country being at stake. While the odds certainly aren’t in our heroes’ favour, there exists no system out there without its own set of flaws to exploit.
Before we delve deeper into the book I would just like to make a disclaimer that it does have a few editing errors here and there, spelling mistakes which made it past the screening process. The novel isn’t riddled with them by any means, and I simply want to point out I never felt them actually affect the quality of the book itself and what it has to offer.
There’s no real point in mincing words, while this is indeed a fictional novel it is primarily a criticism and parody of United States politics, and while it never outright admits so, it doesn’t exactly make any efforts to hide it. Simply examining the cover, which features a marionette reminiscent of the current American president, is already a decent indicator of what’s in store for us. Now, I feel I should warn you that Brian O’Sullivan has an intense hatred for anything related to Donald Trump, so you can fill in the blanks yourself on how he would portray the man and his administration. To his credit I never found he objectively went overboard or into childish territory; it always simply felt like a person expressing their strong opinion.
With this being said, whether you agree or not with O’Sullivan, there is no denying he makes some rather thought-provoking points about modern politics, specifically in regards to the influence which the media holds over the White House. His concept of the president being an “empty suit” felt quite appropriate in the way it was presented and beckons for the question: who exactly has the real power in this country? There are more than enough moments where the parallels he draws will make you laugh rather than send you into profound thought, so it’s not all heavy doom and gloom to be found here.
An Action-Driven Parable
Trying to move away from the author’s political message for a little bit, what this novel is left with is a riveting action-driven mystery which prides itself on making as many twists and turns as possible. I do have to say the pace was a little slow for my taste at the start, but the further I got into it the faster events began to progress and the more I became engaged in the story. The author put as much effort into the plot as he did in the satirical department, creating a story which stands by itself in its own right, but can also serve as a parable of US politics, at least in 2017 when it was published.
I feel what truly made the story work were our two main characters, Frank and Evie. O’Sullivan did an absolutely fantastic job at portraying two young, inspired and naive adults who are seemingly just being broken into the real world. The chemistry between them is quite amusing to observe and they certainly undergo their fair share of visible development by the end of it. We are always shown how they are shaped by the events around them and their experiences, both shared and otherwise, are slowly maturing them into different people. Personally, it took me no time to form a connection and root for them, constantly hoping this wouldn’t be one of those novels with a tragic ending. I’ll endeavor not to spoil the finale for you, but all I can say is it definitely it encompasses the best of the story’s fictional and satirical elements.
The Final Verdict
To end this assessment of Brian O’Sullivan’s fine piece of work, I can only say this has been one of the more uniquely entertaining novels I have read recently. The way it criticizes and depicts modern politics is equally hilarious and thought-provoking, while the plot itself has a lot of variety to it and remains captivating throughout. If you enjoy satire and political thrillers I highly recommend you give this novel a go.