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Descent by Ken MacLeod

DESCENT Ken MacLeod

Author of 2013 Arthur C. Clarke Award-nominated Intrusion tells a science fiction story for the twenty-first century – what happens when conspiracy theorists meet Big Brother?
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THE LASCAR’S DAGGERGlenda Larke

The start of a brand new epic fantasy trilogy from the author of the Stormlord series – full of scheming, spying, action and adventure.
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Mira Grant

I love me some fictional politicians. Right, left, good, evil, it doesn’t matter, as long as they’re interesting and prepared to present me with a new look at legislation. Here’s my top ten, at least for right now.

10. Katherine Vaughn Powers, President of the United States of America, The President’s Daughter, Ellen Emerson White.

The President’s Daughter series of young adult novels—starting with The President’s Daughter and concluding with Long May She Reign, which is arguably an adult novel—mostly focuses on the trials of being the old daughter of the first female President of the United States, but we see President Powers’s term through her daughters eyes. President Powers is firm in her convictions, dedicated to her family and to her country, and does not negotiate with terrorists. President Powers is really pretty damn bad-ass, when you get right down to it. The whole series was reissued in 2008 with new covers and with the pop culture and technology references updated for the time. I do think it’s kind of sad that when the first book came out, in 1984, everyone just sort of assumed we’d have a woman in the White House by now. Maybe soon.

9. Greg Stillson, New Hampshire Congressman, The Dead Zone, Stephen King.

Oh, Congressman Stillson, what can I say about you, apart from “stay the hell away from me”? Congressman Stillson may have been the first fictional politician I ever encountered, during my marathon reading of the works of Stephen King. I was too young to appreciate his vile “viper* in human form” qualities, and was surprised all over again when I finally picked up the book as an adult. (*I actually like vipers, a lot more than I like Greg Stillson. It’s just a good shorthand for his spiteful awfulness.) This is the kind of man who makes our real-world politicians look good. The version of Stillson presented by the television version of The Dead Zone is a different kind of monster, but is no less interesting, and no less terrible for being somewhat humanized by the ongoing demands of the serial drama format. Both of them will give you nightmares, and quite rightly.

8. The Doctor, Lord President of Gallifrey, Doctor Who.

What folks who started watching Doctor Who with the recent revival may not realize is that the Doctor has been Lord President of Gallifrey. Twice. Both times he ran away from the job as soon as possible, once literally leaving his cabinet holding his robes. When presented with political power, he turns and legs it in the other direction. He is the man.

7. Havelock Vetinari, Patrician of Ahnk-Morpork, Discworld, Terry Pratchett.

Maybe it’s a little weird that one of my favorite fictional politicians is from a series of what were originally light comedic fantasy novels. But the Discworld has grown and deepened since its faintly fluffy inception, and the Patrician of Ahnk-Morpork* has been right there, deepening and growing with the rest of it. Deepening and growing into a tyrant whom no one wants to oppose because he makes the city, which shouldn’t function, function**, but hey. Vetinari has a keen political mind*** and was trained by the best the Disk had to offer. He’s ruthless, merciless, and all-too-aware of what kind of man you have to be if you want to keep his city functioning at all, much less functioning well. As Patrician, he has dragged Anhk-Morpork kicking and screaming into the present…and as Patrician, he is more than capable of evicting anyone who feels like living in the past. (*The largest city on the Disk. Sort of London, New York, and Disney World all rammed together and hit with a soldering iron.) (**The fact that Anhk-Morpork starts each day not entirely on fire is a true testament to Vetinari’s skill. And his relationship with the Assassin’s Guild.) (***Several, actually, if the Igors have been in the office recently.)

6. Klaus Wulfenbach, Baron Wulfenbach, Girl Genius, Phil and Kaja Foglio.

Speaking of the past…cast your mind back to the steam-drenched land of Europe, when Sparks and Madboys fought constantly for dominion. Out of this war-ravaged landscape rose heros, villains, and eventually, the iron fist of Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, who recognized that control was the only thing that would stop Europe from ripping itself to pieces, and probably taking the rest of the world along for the ride. Whose control? Why his, naturally. After all, he was the one with the army, the floating castle, and the sheer bad-tempered determination to make all the pieces work together. Baron Wulfenbach is the sort of man who took charge because somebody had to, and kept it because the alternatives were even worse. Even when he’s falling out of the sky, he’s scheming to put the next stage of his plan in action. Plus he looks damn good in his skivvies, fictional character from a comic book universe or not.

5. Harriet Jones, Prime Minister of England, Doctor Who.

She did a very good job. I don’t think she looks tired at all.


4. Arcadia Alvarado, Governor of New Mexico, Saucer Country, Paul Cornell.

Governor Alvarado is a Hispanic-American woman with dreams of the Presidency. She’s tough, she’s smart, she’s poised to take it all, and there’s just one little problem: she believes that she’s been abducted by aliens. And maybe she’s right. How a British author has created such an iconically American story, I don’t know, and I don’t care, because Saucer Country is brilliant, in all its scrambled political/UFO drama glory. Governor Alvarado would make a pretty good President, too, especially since I suspect she’s right about the whole aliens thing. Maybe it’s time we have a believer in the fictional White House.

3. The Beast, President of…well, something, maybe it’s the United States, Transmetropolitan, Warren Ellis.

A man like Spider Jerusalem is only as good as his nemesis. Enter the Best, the politician that Spider tried and failed to destroy the first time that he came down off the mountain and into the City. The Beast is a lovely contradiction, at once an unbearable monster and a man who was handed an unfixable situation with the instruction to keep as much of it intact as possible. He’s not a nice man. He’s not a character you’re ever intended to like. But he’s necessary, and I respect that.

2. Thomas J. Whitmore, President of the United States, Independence Day.

…yeah, he’s on this list solely for his big “Today is not that day” speech before they fight the alien armada. I am allowed to be an easy mark every once in a while.

1. Josiah “Jed” Bartlett, President of the United States, The West Wing.

Need I say more?

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Although the elections come to a close in the US today, you can always revisit the campaign trail with Sean and Georgia by picking up  THE NEWSFLESH TRILOGY by Mira Grant.

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Mira Grant

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