The President is Missing – A rip-roaring thriller for readers of every political persuasion.
Co-authors Bill Clinton and James Patterson must have had marvelous fun crafting their political thriller, The President Is Missing. As I read their well-crafted pages, I could almost hear their distinct voices. Patterson, fast-pacing the action-packed, heart-stopping encounters and escapes; Clinton, more leisurely penning the statuesque presidential tones of political calculations and coercions. Together, they have written a novel that almost anyone—Republican, Democrat, military buff, political junkie—will enjoy.
The plot is fairly straightforward. A mysterious virus is wreaking havoc on isolated computer systems. A Canadian transportation terminal runs amok, then a California arms manufacturing plant explodes. Might the entire United States internet system be the ultimate target of an embedded virus that grinds everything to a halt and that so far is impossible to delete? If so, the virus has the capability of shutting down the country’s military, all financial transactions, the cars we drive, our phones, everything. It is up to President Jonathan Lincoln Duncan to find a solution. And to do so, the president must temporarily go missing.
The reader goes with him. Both personable and thoughtful, he’s a pleasure to join when he ditches his secret service entourage in order to meet with two programmers involved in generating the virus. President Duncan then stays out of the public eye, and away from White House intrigue, setting up a separate computer war room where some of the finest scientists in the world are attempting to outwit the diabolical coders. Through most of the novel’s pages, the president and his most trusted allies work alone. In the meantime, the talking-head pundits and the president’s political opponents idly speculate on his whereabouts and shriek about his motives.
My favorite parts of The President Is Missing were the insider insights and infighting. The calculating, no-holds-barred Speaker of the House plays the role of disloyal opposition. The Vice President, one-time rival for the leadership of their party, firmly believes she would be better at the job than Duncan. His Chief of Staff and his various cabinet secretaries are equally distinct in their personalities, their territoriality, their moral imperatives. Not one of them is a caricature, but each is reminiscent of those men and women we see headlined in our Washington, D.C. news every day.
Throughout The President is Missing, President Duncan crafts a subset of commentary on the political processes. The reader learns exactly what he thinks about the various D.C. players and about world leaders overseas. We discover his inner thoughts acknowledging his own ambitions, his understanding of the powers of the presidency, his willingness to bend the rules, and his commitment to the American people. I like to think I was listening to an idealistic Bill Clinton muse about what was and what might have been. This novel, however, is set in the present, confronting present-day problems not possible in the 1990s. The circumstances are fictional constructions, so I don’t want to blur the distinctions between Clinton and Duncan. They are distinct. But I did enjoy my imagined parallels.
Less exciting, to me, were the action-packed aspects of this very provocative novel. Some of the encounters, as is so often true in military thrillers, seemed contrived. The assassin, in particular, wore a cloak of invincibility, and the explosive encounters—automobile chases, helicopters, shoot-outs—were thrilling, to be sure, but a little over the top. Patterson has a lively imagination, and he writes extremely well. This novel was in keeping with his other prose, and thus highly successful at keeping the reader’s heart beating wildly. I turned the pages rapidly, and I loved every paragraph, even as I relished the delicious political underpinnings of The President Is Missing. — Ann Ronald
The President is Missing is the debut novel by Clinton and Patterson. A second novel, The President’s Daughter is expected this year.