51 by Patrick O’Leary (book review).

February 15, 2022 | By | Reply More

It was the year after the reality TV star took the Whitehouse. In Detroit, seventy-three year-old Adam Pagnucco drives home from an AA meeting and picks up a freezing homeless man to take him to a Salvation Army hostel. But it turns out he knows him. The man is Winston Koop, Adam’s best friend at college, a charismatic athlete with a genius for languages and mathematics, Winston could do just about anything. In the end, he went to ‘Nam and became an interrogator. He married. She left him. He drank a lot. Old story.

They get reacquainted and Adam or Nuke, as Winston calls him, finds out that his old friend has been busy. It turns out that the mystery of Area 51 is not what it seems. All that stuff about aliens and UFOs is a smokescreen to hide the real secret. Spoiler Alert: An early nuclear bomb opened a door to anywhere and also revealed thousands of IFs, Imaginary Friends. Many children around the world have Imaginary Friends and they used to disappear when the child outgrew them or go on to another child.

After the bomb, thousands of IFs became real. Also, they feel compelled to visit the door that the bomb opened. The IFs are useful to the U.S. military in developing new hardware. All this is top secret but secrets inevitably leak. Like the ‘Men in Black’, Koop has a talent for making people forget what they have seen. That’s his job.

The plot elements make it sound like a pulp fiction thriller but it isn’t. Far from it. The mature characters are well-drawn and you want to find out what happens to them. There’s a love story because Koop and Nuke both adore Katey, a senior officer at Area 51. However, the book is more about the friendship between the two men. It’s about buddies.

There are many amusing moments. The Presidents are usually invited to the top secret base to meet the Pope, the IF in charge, and most do. These episodes are amusing and shown in chronological order so you keep wondering what the last President will do, the reality TV star. His reaction doesn’t disappoint. In general, I’d agree with the author’s assessment of Presidents, though obviously, any resemblance to real people or events here is purely coincidental. It says so at the front of the book.

The narrative jumps around all over the place as Koop tells Nuke his story and deeper truths are slowly revealed. Life interrupted my reading, so I lost the thread a bit but it didn’t matter too much. After all this meandering, the action-packed climax was a pleasant surprise and the denouement, too.

In an afterword, author Patrick O’Leary reveals that it took him ten years to write and he made it up as he went along, as he always does. It’s not a bad technique. Works for Stephen King. If you’re expecting an SF or fantasy adventure, you’ll be disappointed but if you like the works of Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut, then this will indubitably give pleasure. I enjoyed it.

Eamonn Murphy

February 2022

(pub: Tachyon Publications, 2022. 330 page ebook. File size: 430kB. Price: £ 5.19 (UK), $ 9.49 (US). ASIN: B08XYBM2WY)

check out website: https://tachyonpublications.com/

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Category: Books, Scifi

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