I rarely do book reviews. I not only don’t have time, but I’m actually uncomfortable doing them. That’s because if I don’t care for a book enough to recommend it, that is, to put my name behind an endorsement and encourage readers to buy a copy, I realize it’s generally simply a matter of subjective preference, so I don’t figure it’s my place to publicly rain on someone’s labor of love, hopes and hard work. And that’s why my policy is I will only give good reviews.
None of this is to say books I’ve chosen to not review are bad, but simply something about them and me did not mix. And that’s not to say I don’t struggle with myself on books I end up choosing to promote.
I had to do just that with “Essential Liberty” by Rob Olive, and the internal deliberation surprised me because it’s a well-written, movie-paced page-turner that lives up to its self-description: “A Thriller.” You put it down, you want to get back to it. At least I did.
My problem was being able to relate some of the characters to plausible individuals relatable to my own experiences, until I realized that I was being guilty of shallow, knee-jerk reactions. And that’s where I found real strength in what I first perceived as potential disqualifiers.
No, you’d never have federal agents who would risk their careers and more to do the right thing, would you? And then I recalled some of the whistleblowers I’ve worked with on Fast and Furious who did exactly that.
No, you’d never have a “gun control”-supporting journalist put aside his biases, open his mind and make sharing the truth his goal, would you? And then I read an honest, real-world admission from one who had done just that.
No, you’d never have an adult who believes in laws as draconian as licensing and registration abandon those misconceptions and make a complete reversal, would you? Except I can recall foolishly believing in such things myself a few decades back, before I actually looked into things and learned better.
OK, so maybe I still don’t buy an anti-gun Oregon Democrat politician doing the right thing on bad gun laws out of principle, but after all, this is a work of fiction. Overall it’s a good adventure story that actualizes some of the darker ambitions being put forth by those bent on citizen disarmament, and the coercive motives and methods Olive establishes, and the way “The List” could be used to prioritize targets for special “Collections” teams and cow others into compliance, give his narrative a feel of authenticity.
Having resolved my issues with the characters, there was one more element to this novel that made me uncomfortable, and that’s again because things got personal for me: It forced me to confront something I suspect plenty of us have pondered on. IF a victim had been kidnapped and was about to be killed, and IF you had one of the clearly evil kidnapers at your mercy with the clock ticking, what lengths would you be willing to go to in order to save an innocent life?
Yeah, “Essential Liberty” goes there, too.
You can look inside the book and see more at Amazon, which sells it in both paperback and Kindle editions (with free reading app downloads for your computer if you don’t have that device), or at Barnes & Noble in both paperback and Nook editions.
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