Editor’s note: The version of TALK that TKNN received for review was not the final copy. It is possible that certain parts of the book that are mentioned may not appear in the final edition. Efforts were made to double-check some elements of the book to see if they made it into the final copy, but our request was not answered at press time.
Talk is a book that begs for a sequel. However, it is not for the normal reason. The book needs a sequel because its ending leaves the reader asking, “That’s it?”
There are other books that end in a similar way, such as Lois Lowry’s The Giver. However, other books do it well. This book resolves its main conflict and then ends. The rushed ending then creates more questions than it answers. The book also says that it’s several plots will combine together, however that does not go as well as planned.
Stan Powers is a radio host in the I-83 Corridor and the presidential election means that Powers quickly gains influence. Soon candidates are coming to kiss Powers’s ring as his consultant and agent seek to multiply Power’s influence and distribution. The consultant, especially, takes on a key role because he’ll often tell Powers what to say. However, Powers personally disagrees with most of what the consultant says, and that feeling only increases as the story goes on.
In the end, the consultant is the only one who gets a resolution in regards to his plot line, other than Powers. The other plot lines, including one with Powers’s girlfriend who acts as his conscience, are not resolved.
Powers’s plot takes has two large parts, the primary and the general election. Govs. Molly Hasket (R-TX) and Wynne James (R-CO) are the two main contenders for the Republican nomination. James is the candidate Powers truly prefers, while Hasket, or Hatchett as her supporters call her, is beloved by the conservatives that tune into Powers’s radio program. There are other candidates, such as Laurent Redfield who appears to be based off Georgia Rep. Paul Broun. The two share views about evolution, which they see as “lies straight from the Pit of Hell.” Hasket’s campaign later leaks documents to Powers regarding James’s previous marriage. Powers decides to bring up the documents at a debate he is co-moderating and the revelations derail the James campaign. However, the Hasket campaign ends up offering Powers a plum spot at the convention, he will introduce Florida’s delegates and it will be arranged that the delegates put Hasket over the top.
As the primary is progressing, a story is beginning with Florida’s governor, Democrat Bob Tobias. Not only is he the Democratic frontrunner after the President announces he will not run for re-election, his religious choices garner controversy. Tobias has not been seen going to a church or any religious location, and when asked, he only says that the Constitution allows for the right to any religion, or none at all. It is the second part of the response that causes people to believe that Tobias is an atheist and creates outrage amongst Powers’s listeners. To add to this, Tobias’s wife is a former flame of Powers.
Powers and the wife do end up re-connecting as the wife tries to use their relationship to her and her husband’s advantage. Mrs. Tobias gives documents to Powers, tells him that people make mistakes, and ends up seducing Powers.
This is where TALK begins its descent in quality. It is suggested that Tobias is in fact a Scientologist, but the book stops short of confirming this. After this revelation, most of the book’s conflict comes from criticism of Scientologists and the book hits the reader rapid-fire with oddities and criticisms of the Church of Scientology.
Powers caps off his Scientology saga at the Republican convention where he criticizes Tobias for his religious preferences during primetime. This decision leads to several changes of the characters. Mrs. Tobias is unhappy and does not respond. Powers’s girlfriend responds by basically breaking up with him. The consultant, however, is pleased.
The final nail in the coffin for TALK comes at its conclusion. Powers’s discontent at his actions reaches a boiling point and he confesses his true beliefs on-air. It is at this point that the parallels between Smerconish and Powers escalate. Powers proclaims himself an independent and criticizes right-wing talk radio. Smerconish, too, has done that on-air. Powers then used a wrestling metaphor to describe the current political climate and Smerconish has used the same metaphor on his CNN show. Finally, Powers leaves the radio station vindicated with his liberal producer proud. As Powers is leaving, he receives a phone call from his consultant. The consultant who had boiled radio success down to three Cs including conservative. Powers expects anger from the consultant, as do readers. However, all are surprised when the consultant isn’t just pleased, but exuberant. This revelation is unrealistic and the story begins to wreak of unrealistic and all-to-easy.
All-to-easy seems to be a quality description of Powers’s career. Powers faces no consequences, except for personal problems, for what he does. Everything he does works out best for him and his star power increases greatly over the span of a few months.
Overall, readers with political interests will find this book pleasing and enjoyable. Those without a political interest will most likely not get very far. However, this book does have several faults which prohibits it from reaching its full potential.
Although, it could have a sequel.
TALK by Michael Smerconish: 7.5 out of 10