Taft 2012 by Jason Heller

I hate reading about politics, but I actually really liked this book.

Taft 2012, by Jason Heller, is a novel that begs the reader to question the political motivations of today’s wheelers and dealers, through the imagined actions of President William Howard Taft, who somehow has come back from the past.

Here is the synopsis from Quirk Books:

He is the perfect presidential candidate. Conservatives love his hard-hitting Republican résumé. Liberals love his passion for peaceful diplomacy. The media can’t get enough of his larger-than-life personality. Regular folks can identify with his larger-than-life physique. And all the American people love that he’s an honest, hard-working man who tells it like it is.

There’s just one problem: He is William Howard Taft… and he was already U.S. president a hundred years ago. So what on earth is he doing alive and well and considering a running mate in 2012?

Heller presents readers with a Rumpelstiltskin tale about America’s 27th President William Howard Taft. This is the biggest hurdle to get through in the book, as it is left extremely ambiguous. Alternative history lovers will even have a hard time with this part, due to lack of sufficient explanation, but if the reader can make it past the ambiguity of his return they are in for a treat.

The meat of the story boils down to how would a former President, with what many would consider old fashioned values and morals, cope in today’s world and political arena? Heller employs a historian, a secret service agent, a political commentator, an old woman (who was a child when Taft was President), and a host of other characters to force feed the 21st century to the former president. The world wind of information he has to digest leaves him both hungry for more information and longing for what he viewed as simpler time.

The author achieves his most basic of purposes – to make the reader think. Do modern marvels cause a disconnect with humanity? How much does the media influence what happens in politics? And, what came across as more the author’s agenda than Taft’s, how the prevalence of processed foods has invaded every level of American culture, and how bad it is for us.

The author has made politics palatable for those of us who do not mentally digest it easily. In his objective to bring a sci fi/fantasy twist he has not done such a good job, as he glossed over how it all happened. This will be its downfall for many geeky readers, but if you can make it past this flaw, Taft 2012 turns into an delightful and thought provoking read.