Right State

SumRight Statemary: Just in time for the fall presidential election, Mat Johnson, acclaimed writer of INCOGNEGRO, delivers a race-against-time political thriller about a militia group that’s plotting to assassinate the second African- American President of the U.S. In the week leading up to a major campaign speech, the Secret Service discovers that an extremist militia group is plotting to assassinate America’s second African American President. The best chance to avert this crisis is to infiltrate the group using an ex-Special Forces war hero turned conservative media pundit named Ted Akers. While Akers’s politics make him a hero to the right-wing fringe and no friend to the current Administration, he takes the assignment and what follows is an adrenaline-fueled race against time to stop a President from dying and a country from being ripped apart.

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Right State, by Matt Johnson and Andrea Mutti 7.0

I seriously have no idea how ‘Right State’ ended up on my library waitlist. I’ve had it on request for probably 2-3 years, because I was never really pulled to it – enough to someday want to read, but never enough to pounce on it. There was always something more enticing, though I did pick it up a couple of times.

But, what with the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections coming up, I felt that it was time.

You see, ‘Right State’ is set in 2020, right before the next election, and it find the United States in a terrible place indeed: the militia groups that have been threatening to stir the pot for years are now wreaking havoc in the name of freedom, and the government is having a terrible time keeping a lid on it all.

So much so, in fact, that the President’s life is at risk whenever he’s out in public.

I very much like the setting because it feels all too prescient. It’s not a reality that I want to live in or have unfold before my eyes, but the idea that the fires of discord have been fanned to such a degree that no facts or reason can stop certain people from acting out in the name of “patriotism” feels realistic.

And, given the current political climate, I suspect that it’s just a matter of time…

So I found it intriguing to read someone’s interpretation of how that would unfold. Unfortunately, though ‘Right State’ seems largely credible, at no point did it get a firm hold on me. I read it with a certain detachment that shouldn’t have been possible given that our hero, Ted Akers, was racing for time.

But I suppose that taking a right-wing political commentator and having him infiltrate a right-wing militia just didn’t appeal to me – especially since the people he winds up surrounded by are low-brow, uneducated types that are of little interest to me. I wound up disinterested in both the hero and the villains.

What I did find interesting, however, is the notion that our hero’s partisanship had its bounds – when he hears that there’s a plot to assassinate the President, he willingly participates in preventing it. I also liked that he worked with a Muslim FBI agent, again overcoming his biases to do the right thing.

For me, this is the book’s greatest value: it takes us back to the very notion of society, which is everyone working together for the betterment of the whole, irrespective of our differences. The moment we are turned against one another, society crumbles – and we all lose. ‘Right State’ reflects that.

So I appreciated this aspect of the book, though I had misgivings when I saw blatant errors (ex: listing the wrong date – 2010 instead of 2020, or showing our hero listening to the bad guys discuss their plan… through a closed window); it gave the impression of an amateur book, staining its credibility.

Look, ‘Right State’ isn’t a horrible graphic novel. Not one bit. And it may compel some. But I felt like its scope was a bit limited, that there wasn’t enough meat on its bones. In other terms, this whole tale would have been resolved in 30-40 minutes of screentime – there isn’t the material to make a feature film.

Though there are interesting ideas within the book’s pages, they’re simply not fleshed out enough for my tastes. It would have perhaps felt more like a large-scale plot if we followed more characters and got more of a sense of the political machinations taking place behind the scenes. Alas, that’s not the case.

And thus ‘Right State’ is middle of the road.

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