The President Is Missing ★★★☆☆
Bill Clinton and James Patterson
Genre(s) | Thriller
Goodreads Rating | 4.02
Humpo Show Rating | 3.00
A collaboration between former President Bill Clinton, and the biggest-selling thriller writer of-all-time James Patterson. It sounds like the stuff of dreams, but I’m afraid for me it was underwhelming. Our protagonist, President Duncan, is facing an almighty threat to the country he is sworn to lead, protect and serve. An enemy of America has created a weapon that will bring the country to its knees, over the course of three days, the President has to find a way to prevent the unimaginable from happening.
Patterson manages to weave a decent story, with a threat that worries many countries, organisations, and individuals: computer hacking. This time the scale is multiplied by 300 million! The fate of the American people lies the hands of a handful of people, as the President and the best and brightest computer minds attempt to decrypt a devastating virus that has been loaded onto every device that requires the internet. The result of the virus “activating” would be the permanent overwriting of every single data in existence for Americans, including: customer records, health records, defence and financial systems to name but a few key areas. Basically, the United State of America would become “the biggest ever third world country”.
Patterson’s writing is obviously the most entertaining, and he manages to build suspense even if the reader doesn’t truly believe that America is going to be crippled by the virus. The identity of the financier of the attack against America is kept a secret until the end, and even if much of the story is predictable, the way Patterson moves the story along, I don’t mind at all. It is an easy thriller to read.
It is quite clear where Clinton, and where Patterson take ownership of the storyline. Having said that, Clinton doesn’t really provide much in the way of meaningful plot. He intersperses Patterson’s plot with some inside knowledge of political processes, Oval Office meetings and life as a President facing impeachment. Some of the knowledge that Clinton imparts helps to give authenticity to the scene, but more often than not he ends up commenting, not so subtly, on his personal politics in relation to the Trump administration. This is very clear at the beginning of the book and also the final chapter.
Chapter 19 is of particular note, as it seemed so completely out of place in terms of voice (Clinton vs Patterson). First of all, President Duncan ends up encountering a homeless army veteran, leading Clinton to spend the next two-and-a-half pages showcasing that the President does care for these brave soldiers that come back to various problems such as PTSD and homelessness, and that he does have the ‘average Joe’ in his mind despite the lofty office he holds. One political kickball leads to the next, as he soon witnesses an African-American being tackled to the ground by police officers. This overt inclusion of a 2018 American issue served no purpose to the storyline, or even the current climate in this fictional America. The ambiguity of why the man is being arrested only adds to my dissatisfaction at Clinton for including it. Our hero, the President, can’t be seen to take anyone’s side on such a toxic issue.
“I hope the officers are simply responding to a call and acting properly. I know that most cops, most of the time, do the best they can. I know that there are bad cops, just as there are bad actors in every profession.”
Not content with touching on the police violence of black people issue, Clinton uses his fictional President as a mouthpiece of more political rhetoric that again, added nothing, and felt forced. In one speech, President Duncan addresses multiple issues that concern Americans: the media, fake news, human rights, immigration, policing, climate change and defence spending. It is clear that Clinton has added his input to this novel as his way of commenting on the Trump administration. Everyone knows that Donald Trump as President is not what anyone with a sane mind would want, We don’t need another reminder of the policies that Trump has enacted through his lack of empathy.
One last thought: what was the point of the President’s illness if it didn’t come into play with the storyline?! Bewildering…
When I seen the combination of Clinton and Patterson on the front cover, I was hoping for an action-packed plot provided by Patterson, with some realistic touches in regards to US politics. provided by Clinton. Patterson delivered on the plot, Clinton failed in his. A thriller that lacked thrills.
The Humpo Show | Richard