- Series: Breakpoint (Book 1)
- Paperback: 296 pages
- Publisher: Diversion Books (November 3, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1626818290
- ISBN-13: 978-1626818293
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 109 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,170,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Surrounded by Enemies: A Breakpoint Novel Paperback – November 3, 2015
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"I have some experience with shattered timelines and altered realities but this one kept me guessing every page.”―Damon Lindelof, writer/producer of LOST, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
“Plausible development, building from what we know about what really did go on, and a whacking good story…SURROUNDED BY ENEMIES delivers on both, big-time. So hold on to your hats, folks. You’re in for quite a ride.”―Harry Turtledove, alternative history author, HOW FEW REMAIN
From the Back Cover
WINNER OF THE SIDEWISE AWARD FOR ALTERNATE HISTORY
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The premise is simple and the storyline entirely plausible. We've lionized JFK because his death cut short any real criticism or scrutiny of his administration. In this story, JFK lives and the resulting investigation plays out similar to the Watergate of our time, with similar results. The story is written as a retrospective from the magazine that first broke the inside story of the corruption in the administration, and that narrative style is flawless. There's even a clear parallel to the Frost/Nixon interview near the end of the book.
As a starting point, Zabel basically adopts EVERY JFK conspiracy theory-- grassy knoll, LBJ, Hoover, East German spies, etc. And it all comes out. Hoover's fight with the Kennedys spills out into the public. LBJ becomes a modern Aaron Burr, ending up in prison for his role in the conspiracy. For me, the most powerful scene is when Bobby Kennedy tells JFk that they don't have the votes in the senate to keep him from being impeached, when they've played every card and come up short.
The author ends with what is clearly wishful thinking on his part. JFK resigns and a Democratic Speaker of the House becomes President. JFK's resignation sets up a series of events where in 2000, Bill Clinton wins his second term against George W Bush, and then by 2016 JFK Jr is poised to become President.
But there are real and powerful parallels in this book that come through the story so smoothly because the writing is effective without being heavy handed. Weaponizing politics, the danger of using the power of the state for personal agendas, painting political opponents as existential threats to civilization itself, and the frightening frequency with which people seem willing to justify using the ammo box to do what they couldn't do with the ballot box-- all applicable today.
Bryce Zabel's book is not that kind of book. Zabel has done his homework, immersing himself in the minutae of the Kennedy Presidency and the result is a book that feels real -- something that not many alternate histories can say. The dynamics between JFK and RFK, between Jack and Jackie, and between his advisers Powers, and O'Donnell, are all believable.
Zabel's book posits that, having survived Dallas, Kennedy would have been destroyed by those who failed to kill him in Dallas. This is where it veers off into conspiracy theory, which might pose a problem for some viewers. The Mafia, Texas Oil, the CIA, and even Lyndon Johnson are part of the web of conspiracy that eventually undoes his Presidency. I bought this book, got it in the mail in the morning, and didn't put it down til I finished it at 11 that night. It's that good.
There are a few quibbles here, and they mainly concern what comes after Kennedy's exit from office. Chappaquiddick occurs, but it shouldn't -- Teddy met Mary Jo Kopechne as a staffer on Bobby's 1968 campaign, and they were driving home from a party that was a last get together for those who had worked on that campaign. Ronald Reagan is elected over Jerry Brown in 1976 -- but this is after NIxon serves two full terms (having burned the tapes). Would the public have elected another Republican to succeed Nixon? Only if Nixon's popularity ratings were high, which was unlikely. Al D'Amato is mentioned as a senator from New York in 1998, but D'Amato was elected in 1980 on Reagan's coattails. John McCain runs for President in 2000, but with the Vietnam War ending in 1966, he would not have been shot down in 1967, and would likely have stayed in the Navy and become an Admiral, like his father and grandfather. George HW Bush is President in 1988, but again, how? He wasn't Reagan's VP choice in 1976, so how does this happen? Zabel takes the post-JFK history, keeps the same names, but scrambles them up.