The Wall, by N.J. Croft

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to N.J. Croft for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

With the political circus in full swing across America, N.J. Croft’s newest book looks to provide readers with some insightful foreshadowing (and foreboding) of what could come, should ‘The Wall’ become a reality. With a chilling plot and some great characters, Croft offers readers a glimpse of the dystopia that awaits if America’s four year nightmare does not end on January 20, 2021. In the not too distant future, America stands on its own. After the Loyalty Party swept into power, President Harry Coffell, Sr. took the helm and began enacting some essential laws, including the building of a wall to protect the country from outsiders. He justified that after the recent pandemic, closing the country down would keep citizens free from disease, something Coffell touts as being the best way to return America to its past greatness. With the literal wall comes a digital one, where outside signals are blocked and ongoing technical research is banned. The only change at the top comes in the form of President Harry Coffell, Jr., who is happy to continue his father’s legacy with new and stricter rules to keep America for Americans. Within this administration, Kate Buchanan is at the helm of threat assessments for Homeland Security, looking for issues and passing them up the line. She’s personalised a secret program to synthesise the threats that emerge and offer some predictive analysis about what might be coming down the pipeline should certain things occur. What she discovers is something that could really rock the country. Meanwhile, Gideon Frome has returned to take up a senior position with the Secret Service, after being removed from the capital and sent to defend the Wall. Gideon has an interesting past, with a brother who went missing and labelled a rebel to American advances. After Kate devises a plan to trick Gideon into providing an essential piece of information, she is able to unlock additional databases within her program. With this knowledge, the ultimate plan of both POTUS and the Party emerges, which is even more terrifying than first thought. As Kate and Gideon begin to see that anyone who stands in the path ends up ‘accident prone’, they must race to dismantle an all but certain plan to keep democracy at bay and allow President Coffell to hold firm to power for as long as he desires. Soon the horrid epiphany comes to the surface: the Wall is not only meant to keep others out, but to keep Americans in, forever. Chilling in its approach and poignant in today’s political arena, Croft gives readers something to consider before November 3, 2020 and well into the future. Recommended to those who love political thrillers, as well as the reader who finds dystopian novels to their liking.

I discovered N.J. Croft earlier this year and cannot get enough of these novels. Not only are they poignant, but also provide the reader with something to think about throughout the reading experience. This piece utilises two protagonists to push the story forward, each bringing their own perspective to the story. Kate provides the reader with her insights into what America is becoming, based on the revelations of her computer program and the whispers that emerge through predictive reasoning. Her backstory provides the reader with some context about the larger storyline of a sister and pulls in her fellow protagonist. Kate’s character development comes to light as she better understands what I call the Coffell Doctrine—plan to see America remain under Martial Law and away from democratic elections—and uses her knowledge to attempt a derailment of the entire system for the love of her country. Gideon, on the other hand, has a vastly different backstory and his life experiences surely shape the man he has become. Interrogated and sent to defend the Wall, Gideon has war stories and injuries all his own, as well as an awkward dislike for the Coffell Administration, yet has been given a ‘crown jewel’ position within the Secret Service. While he is tasked with protecting the president, Gideon sees what is going on, if only with Kate’s help, and must decide which is more important to him. There are other characters who make an impact on the story and keep things moving in some very interesting directions. Croft creates those on both sides of the struggle and does not hold back in filling in many gaps as they relate to the larger plot developments. The story was quite strong and on par with some of the ‘crazy times’ America is experiencing under its current POTUS 45 administration, though this book certainly takes this a lot further. One can only guess that there is a degree of tongue in cheek here, though it does provide the insightful reader with some ideas of how far things could go if given the chance to push martial law and suspect elections. All that being said, there will be some who surely feel that Croft has gone too far, but they are also those who tend not to see the slippery slope on which they are standing or hope that blind faith will solve all the political and social woes that have befallen America. In a novel that propels the narrative forward with strong chapters of various lengths, Croft uses quotes by past US president to flavour what is to come in each new section. This keeps the reader guessing while also showing how presidential foreshadowing can effectively shed light on where things have gone at present. However one takes it, this is an eyebrow raising piece and I am pleased to have had the time to read it and ruminate before I watch Americans go to the polls (or mail in their ballots) on November 3rd. The rest is up to them!

Kudos, N.J. Croft, for this piece which kept me thinking throughout. I applaud your work and am so pleased to have tripped upon your writing by scouring Goodreads and locating some great recommendations.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Wall, by Joseph Hayes

Seven stars

In his recent publication, Joseph Hayes touches on some current hot-button topics, sure to stir the pot. The wall erected along the southern border of the United States is supposed to quell illegal immigration, but has served more as a means of challenging those who seek a better life in America. Sal Rios and his father learned that as they trekked from Mexico over the border one night, as the novel opens. With dangers all around them on both sides, the Rios family snuck through and set-up in a Texas town, hoping for the best. While Sal is trying to acclimate, he meets Bobby Rivera and Miguel Sanchez, two other boys his age. Bobby is the brains of the operation, able to score high marks in school and the son to two visa-carrying parents in the medical field. Miguel has been forced to scrounge just to make ends meet, seen more as a independent teen, with a single mom trying to juggle all the responsibilities. These three boys soon prove to be inseparable, making a name for themselves around school and getting into trouble. Sal’s father may not be the naive illegal immigrant that he wants people to believe, as the boys find out one night when they notice him ‘conducting business’. However, it is an accident that sees Miguel die and Sal take over his life, all planned through some of the businessmen that control the immigrant population in this rural Texas community. Move ahead twenty years, where the new “Michael ‘Miguel’ Sanchez” has become a prominent lawyer fighting for the rights of immigrants. After a headline-grabbing decision at the US Supreme Court, Sanchez is riding the wave of popularity. With it, comes the politicos, wondering if he might put his name forward for office. While bandying around the idea of a Senate run, someone insists that his independent candidacy for President of the United States might be just what the country needs to focus on immigration issues, particularly those of the illegal variety around the Mexican border. While Sanchez is weighing his options, Bobby Rivera has been living a simple life, though is impressed to see that someone is making noise about immigration issues. With a good job and ties to the community, Rivera watches as this new face on the political scene seems to be rising in popularity at just the right time. However, Bobby knows the dark secret that could bring the Sanchez Campaign down. With a plan to see Sanchez align himself with one of the mainstream campaigns as a VP candidate, his political future seems firmly controlled by others, forcing him to remain quiet. As Bobby tries to help his friend dodge those mean him harm, he becomes entangled in a situation that could have dire consequences ahead of this important presidential election. A well-crafted piece whose political intrigue held strong for most of the novel, but waned in the last handful of chapters.

I noticed this book on the Kindle Unlimited website and knew that I would have to give it my best effort. While I have never read anything by Joseph Hayes, there was a certain poignancy to this novel that I could not resist. In the early part of the story, Hayes depicts some of the stories that many Americans have likely heard about the porous nature of the US-Mexico border, though there is a great deal of danger, not a ‘welcome to America, come on in’ as certain blowhards would have us believe. While illegal immigration does occur, using steel and adding more bullets to guns will do little to solve the larger issue of illegal immigration, save for a silly stop-gap measure that ignores the root causes and only costs the taxpayer billions after being lied to throughout a political campaign. Hayes focuses his attention on the issue and uses some key characters to depict this story, through both a struggle and success. Bobby Rivera is the American-born first generation character, whose parents arrived legally and who sought a better life for their son. He has the brains to succeed and, given the chance, makes the most of his opportunities. A great contrast occurs between his youth and adulthood, where Rivera is standing on the sidelines and watching change occur. His backstory and character development are well documented throughout Hayes’ narrative, though he seems to be the unexpected spectator, with brains and persuasive capabilities one might expect of a political figure. Miguel Sanchez/Sal Rios is the wonderful rags to riches character who was forgotten in his youth and cut his teeth on getting into trouble without being caught. He appears to have risen above and earned his law degree, only to effect change in a country that needs it more than ever. Hughes shows his maturity through the twenty year flash forward in the early part of the book, allowing the reader to see a man ready to take on the political elites to advocate for much-needed policy change, though it will not be easy. However, the secret that hangs over him could bring him down at any moment. The story was developed well, keeping the reader enthralled throughout. With a little talk of immigration policy and the thrill of an election campaign, the reader should expect something exciting. However, the political campaign becomes secondary as Hayes flirts with having the narrative reveal the deep secret Miguel Sanchez has been keeping. I had hoped for something highly political with a cut-throat campaign, but perhaps Hayes will do so in another of his novels. Strong characters and a decent plot keep Joseph Hayes showing that he is an author to watch, even if the story took a turn I did not expect to become primary.

Kudos, Mr. Hayes, for a great story that has strong themes that are quite relevant. I look forward to reading more of your work in the coming months.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: