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The X-President Paperback – November 4, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Baruth's (The Dream of the White Village; The Millennium Shows) imaginative novel, the year is 2055, and Bill Clinton-still hearty at 109 and referred to here as BC-has screwed everything up. As a result of two independent and reasonable actions in BC's presidency-expanding NATO and encouraging the (fictitious) Anti-Tobacco accord, which pushed Big Tobacco into foreign markets-the world has been thrust into the brutal, endless Cigarette Wars. Terrorist bombings are a matter of course, as is constant and invasive government surveillance; everywhere there's a sense of impending doom. BC, whose life has been prolonged by biotechnology, has not been treated kindly by history, and so he recruits loner Sal Hayden to write his definitive biography. Enter "James" (for Carville), "George" (for Stephanopoulos) and "Virginia," code-named members of the National Security Council, who have a much grander plan for historical revisionism. Kidnapping Sal, the group travels to 1963 and then to 1995, beginning a series of maneuvers to rewrite history. The mission is not without its snags, Sal's occasionally abrasive personality being one, and the weirdness of it all-a teenaged BC ("yBC") being seduced by an NSC operative and slowly being manipulated into changing the future BC's decisions-makes for page-turning reading. Baruth's facility for leaking and withholding information helps sustain interest, although the story is almost too neat at times. A disappointingly vague ending mars this interesting blend of satire and sci-fi.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The year: 2055. Sal Hayden is writing the biography of a 109-year-old former U.S. president known as BC. Meanwhile, the U.S. is taking a pummeling in the Tobacco Wars, a massive international conflict that resulted from antitobacco legislation BC signed when he was president in the 1990s. When Sal is recruited by the government to participate in an audacious plan to rewrite history so that the Tobacco Wars never happened, she finds herself on a journey so fantastic she would never have imagined it possible. At its heart, this is a novel about American politics, but it's also a story about the nature of history: just because an event has already taken place, does that mean we can't change what happened? It's a comic road trip, too, as Sal and her mismatched trio of associates (a beautiful special-ops expert who calls herself Victoria, a hard-nosed military man code-named James Carville, and a brilliant civilian code-named George Stephanopoulos) set out to find a 16-year-old Arkansas boy who holds the key to America's salvation. Oh, and there is a small, touching, love story in there somewhere. Baruth is especially good at manipulating his narrative, surprising us with sudden twists that leave heroine and reader alike first confused and then forced to reconsider recent history in ways that, oddly, make perfect sense. Students of politics will enjoy picking apart the characters' arguments, alternate-history buffs will be delighted with the author's world building, and comic thriller fans will love the wild ride. Face it: anyone who picks this book up will be thoroughly entertained. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 369 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; English Language edition (November 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553802941
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553802948
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,957,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I had a lot of fun reading this book.
Warren Jakes
Clinton's hand-picked biographer is dragooned into a time travel adventure that is marvelously inventive and informative to boot.
Jerry Saperstein
I loved this book, it was original and very funny.
reading mom

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 7, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel is more thriller than sci-fi, but the science fiction elements (time travel, cool futuristic technologies) are lots of fun. The X President is also a hilarious political satire that somehow manages to please Clinton-lovers and Clinton-haters at the same time. I'm an admirer of Clinton, but a friend of mine who hates Clinton was roaring with laughter when I read him the great scene involving the interactive virtual reality of the "White House coffee" event. Baruth's characterization of the ancient BC is so good you'll want those scenes to keep rolling. Incredibly, the portrait of young BC (yBC) is, if anything, even better.
Baruth's novel combines edge-of-the-seat action scenes with brilliant vintage historical moments (Cassius Clay, for example, is featured) and laugh-out-loud funny dialogue.
So, why should you get this book? First, it's guaranteed to crack you up. Second, the time travel adventure is exciting (well-plotted and full of moments that make you go "Wow!" and "Oh no!" and "Ah-ha!"). The third reason is that the Clinton stuff is just a blast. Baruth has read everything about the man, perspectives across the spectrum, and has selected the juiciest, tastiest morsels for the reader to chew on. As a bonus, the writing is stylistically fine, a real pleasure for us literary types, and yet not stuffy; so the effect is a stylish but wild ride rather than either a merely stylish ride (think Updike) or a wild ride in a racer that is actually rusting out and about to crumble but you can overlook that because the ride (i.e., the story) is so much fun (think Grisham or Clancy). Enjoy!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Wayne Dennison on November 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a remarkable book that seamlessly combines science fiction, Clinton-era political commentary, literary theory and trenchant observation on the ethos of politics and pool.
Bill Clinton is beautifully rendered (in nearly every sense of the term). This richly imagined book also works as a compelling piece of science fiction, a knowing comment on the nature of biography, and a primer on the norms and nuances of bar room billiards.
It is Heinlein without the messianic overtones (or the breast fixation); Primary Colors where anonymity and identity ultimately prove to be fungible; Billy Phelan's Greatest Game for the 21st Century.
Baruth's portrait of Clinton evokes the inexplicable "fullness" of an incomplete man (Wolfe's Charlie Croker) and, at times, the near majesty of the ultimate political animal in command of very considerable powers of persuasion and appeal. The yBC character (Clinton as a boy) is near perfect -- a mixture of promise and promiscuity that just feels right.
Over and over, Baruth nails the details from the shape of Clinton's hands to Carville's nearly freakish power of recall (which is hilariously and ingeniously "explained"). Baruth understands both the people who shape political change and those charged with telling and thereby shaping their stories.
The X-President is an enormously entertaining book that, like one of its central characters, ultimately questions what is is.
Baruth here calls and pockets a difficult bank shot. His readers prove to be the winners.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mina Santos on December 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
I bought this book after reading the enticing review in the NYTimes. I wasn't disappointed. There aren't many good, intelligent adventure stories out there that have an interesting woman as a main character. I have to confess that I've always found George Stephanopoulos sexy, so his part worked great for me, too. This is a very funny book, but I think what kept me going was the quirky, surprising plot (and the nostalgia trips). Mr. Baruth knows how to ask great "what if" questions, and his answers are really brilliant (often scary) alternate realities. It kind of reminded me of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, which is another fast-moving fantasy adventure I would recommend. They're both kind of brainy books, but page-turners at the same time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By P. O'Rourke on February 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
More than any other president in recent history, Bill Clinton would probably like to change his legacy. Rather than being remembered for the economic growth of his tenure of the remarkably stable foreign affairs, he will likely be remembered for Monica Lewinsky and wasting his considerable political charms.
In this book Mr. Baruth posits that time travel has become a reality (but only for a select few, with government approval). In the Year 2055, the United States is on the verge of losing a war, based upon political decisions involving litigation against cigarette manufacturers. The lead character, Sal Hayden, Bill Clinton's biographer is chosen as part of a team to meet with Clinton and try to change his political decision. Fascinating premise.
Mr. Baruth did a nice job of telling this tale. His writing is clean and crisp. The characters are plausible, and you can almost feel Bill Clinton aching for a second chance.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bill Mitchell on December 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
My friends say I'm a political junkie and I guess it's true. I loved this book! I was at the bookstore waiting for my girlfriend to finish shopping and I just picked this off the rack because of the cover. After about ten pages I got into it and actually had to buy the book! I was still reading it in bed but had to control my laughter not to wake my girlfriend. I finished the book during breakfast. Anyway, all of this is to point out not only do I have a girlfriend(!) but this book is great if you're into politics and also have a sense of humor. I'm glad to see there are others here who liked it. The professional reviews posted here seem accurate to me, except the point about the "vague ending." If you know American politics, you won't consider the ending vague but very pointed and an attack against the pundits who act like they can predict the future.
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