All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Deep State by Chris Hauty

on January 17, 2020

Deep State 
Chris Hauty
Simon & Schuster AUS
2020, 287p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Recently elected President Richard Monroe—populist, controversial, and divisive—is at the center of an increasingly polarized Washington, DC. Never has the partisan drama been so tense or the paranoia so rampant. In the midst of contentious political turf wars, the White House chief of staff is found dead in his house. A tenacious intern discovers a single, ominous clue that suggests he died from something other than natural causes, and that a wide-ranging conspiracy is running beneath the surface of everyday events: powerful government figures are scheming to undermine the rule of law—and democracy itself. Allies are exposed as enemies, once-dependable authorities fall under suspicion, and no one seems to be who they say they are. The unthinkable is happening. The Deep State is real. Who will die to keep its secrets and who will kill to uncover the truth?

This is the second book that I’ve read in a row where it feels like it’s much more suited to be a movie, rather than a book. In this one, it even feels like it’s written to be that way. It’s almost like a screenplay – there’s a clinical description of plots and action with little in the way of character development and intimacy.

The book revolves around Hayley Chill, an ex-Army person who has now been afforded a prestigious White House intern position. Hayley doesn’t have advanced education or family wealth (or both) like the other interns she’s working with – instead she has a lot of ‘life skills’ and determination. At first she is an intern to the Chief of Staff but after he is found dead in his kitchen (seemingly of a heart attack but was it really?) she is moved to White House Operations. Hayley has evidence that the Chief of Staff was helped to his end but she doesn’t know who to trust – or how deep this goes. But she knows that the President is most probably next and she absolutely has to stop that from happening.

I enjoyed a large portion of the story at play here. Hayley is incredibly interesting as a character, although to be honest, I do not think she’s explored on a personal level anywhere near enough. And perhaps that’s because of the role she plays, as a tough protagonist determined to bring down a group of people intent on upsetting the government. But she has such an interesting background, with a lot of tragedy and it has shaped her in some really important ways but we really only get a few crumbs here and there. She is slight but physically exceptional – a former amateur boxer, obviously well versed in self defence and combat and she also has a photographic memory. It’s clear the other interns think she’s a bit of a hillbilly (she’s from West Virginia) and she also faces a hostile superior as well, who resents the liking that both the Chief of Staff and also the President took to her in a couple of limited interactions and seeks to remove her from their orbits. Hayley seems one of those characters that men are immediately drawn to for reasons that are difficult to explain. She is apparently very beautiful (of course) and implacable and manages to win over various powerful men with barely a few sentences. Even one of the leaders of the group she is looking to foil sees her and decides within minutes that he wouldn’t mind recruiting her, unaware that she’s one of the people working against him and his goals.

However where I don’t felt this book worked for me, was the writing. It’s hard to write a really good action novel, because unlike in a movie, you can’t rely on dramatic effects and tightly shot narrow escapes and ratchet up the tension by creating close calls visually, or show several things simultaneously. In a book you have to tell the story very vividly and paint the scene so that the reader can visualise it in their minds. This may be easier for those familiar with Washington DC (I am not at all) but overall this felt like someone reciting a list of things happening, rather than creating a story. A lot of it felt so clinical and even when it felt like it should’ve been drawing me in, I still felt quite disconnected from it. Perhaps it was because of Hayley and the fact that she didn’t even seem like an actual person with fears, dreams, hopes, loves, etc. She felt more like a robot programmed for a task (ha!) and I just do not enjoy reading that. It’s actually one of the things that makes me highly critical of thrillers – when the protagonist feels like they are impossibly clever and strong that they can thwart everyone else with so little effort, even when the opposition are some of the most highly trained and intelligent people (powerful people) in the country. I know they have to succeed – the story is over if they don’t. But it’s when they succeed in everything so effortlessly….that’s what makes me lose interest in the story. How can I believe that these big bads are so scary if one person can thwart pretty much everything they are planning? We’re talking about assassinating the highest roles in American government….and it’s one White House intern basically on her own with occasional back up from reluctant people who don’t really know what they’re doing and everything just falling into place. There’s also a twist at the end that will either really work for the reader or it won’t, I think I was in the ‘it didn’t’ category.

So yeah, this was just okay for me. Just had the feeling of more a movie-type story than a book one.


Book #7 of 2020

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