Review

The Book of Fate

by Brad Meltzer



Brad Meltzer is a genius in every sense of the word. He is, from
all accounts, modest enough that if he happens to read these words
he'll probably blush. While I don't wish to cause him embarrassment
or discomfort, what I say is true. The evidence? Meltzer was a
speechwriter for Americacorps, former President Bill Clinton's
national service program; he co-created a brilliant, critically
acclaimed, criminally under-appreciated television series called
"Jack & Bobby"; he has written six novels, each a wonder in its
own right for entirely different reasons; and he also wrote a
seven-part graphic novel, IDENTITY CRISIS, that still has the comic
fanboys talking.

The common threads through all of these works are Meltzer's
encyclopedic knowledge and dogged research; what he doesn't know,
he looks up. But what's cool (there's no other word for it) is the
way that he incorporates a bunch of seemingly unrelated factoids
and careful, painstaking research into a meticulously plotted
story, peopled by characters whom one can actually care about long
after the work --- be it a novel, screenplay or comic book --- has
ended.

THE BOOK OF FATE, while possessing all of the traits noted above,
is also (in some ways) a love letter to the institution of the
White House, whose occupant Meltzer served quite skillfully during
his tenure there. Meltzer gives his readers much more than a
thriller with the White House as a backdrop; he presents us with
what appears to be an over-the-shoulder insider's view.

The majority of the novel is seen through the eyes of Wes Holloway,
a once up-and-coming aide to President Leland Manning. An
assassination attempt permanently scarred Holloway, effectively
ended Manning's presidency and killed Ron Boyle, Manning's closest
advisor and best friend. Some eight years later, Holloway is still
an aide to the now-former president, not slipping back but never
looking forward either. Holloway's ennui is suddenly disturbed when
two things happen: the deranged assassin who so dramatically
changed Holloway's life escapes, and Holloway, against all odds,
discovers that Boyle is alive. Both events are related --- directly
and indirectly --- to the machinations of The Three, a shadowy
group whose subtle attempts to manipulate events for their own gain
resulted in the terrible day that so long ago altered Holloway's
life and the course of the nation.

Holloway is determined to come to grips with the guilt he feels
over Boyle's apparent death. To do this, he will have to uncover
the identity of The Three, a task that involves breaking the code
of a recent and far-removed President, and pursuing a trail that
leads surprisingly right back to the man who has had his trust,
loyalty and respect for over a decade --- even as he places his own
life in danger.

All of this would be great fun on its own. But what distinguishes
THE BOOK OF FATE from novels of its stripe is Meltzer's ability to
draw a myriad of intriguing facts from multiple disciplines into
the narrative without straining the borders of his story. He's like
the college professor --- there are at least one or two on every
campus --- whose class is so interesting that everyone wants to
take it, whether or not it is within the sphere of their academic
discipline.

Another element of the book that left me, frankly, with mouth agape
in admiration was Meltzer's plotline. He leaves the "who" and "why"
of the machinations that propel THE BOOK OF FATE until the end of
the work, as one would expect; what is impressive is the
seamlessness of the logic behind it all. Occasionally a suspension
of disbelief is required --- and, in most cases, earned --- by a
narrative that perhaps exceeds the believable motivations of the
characters. Not so in this novel, wherein disbelief need never even
show its face. One can draw a line from the beginning to the end
and never deviate from the plausibility of this masterful
work.

From its subtle nod to the legendary multitasking of Meltzer's
former boss, to the brief but hilarious name check that every comic
fanboy will appreciate, THE BOOK OF FATE is worth the sleepless
night or two it will take to read it. It gets no better than
this.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 11, 2011

The Book of Fate
by Brad Meltzer

  • Publication Date: September 5, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 0446530999
  • ISBN-13: 9780446530996