It is very easy to get caught up in Open Primary by A. C. Fuller because there are so many types of stories in one well-crafted package. Subtitled as Ameritocracy, Book 1, there is a story of relationships; one of daughter and father, and one of Mia and possible romantic interest. There is a woman-makes-good story, as Mia develops a groundbreaking social media application. This is a technology thriller as clever computer geeks subvert the intention of Mia’s efforts … and Mia fights back. Readers will find a political thriller as a third party attempts to challenge the Democratic and Republican establishments. Remember Ross Perot? Finally, this is a collection of character studies as several candidates are vying for first place in a hypothetical run to replace the current POTUS.
Mia Rhodes has a history of calamitous involvement with the American political scene. She burst upon the scene of public political awareness in a scandal that destroyed her father’s political possibilities. Is she now returning to inflict further damage, whether intentional or not? When friends and colleagues ask her about her father, she answers “The topic is not open for discussion.” Inquiring readers want to know what is going on here.
Mia has been keeping a low profile as a successful journalist. She has been expressing her higher ambitions through a website project called Ameritocracy. The idea is to widen participation in the American political process. Remember the idea, “Anyone can grow up to be president?” Mia intends to make this a reality using a platform based on algorithms developed for social media. Anyone can sign up for her project, anyone can vote, anyone can announce their candidacy for president. There is a small problem with money. To get big, expansion requires funding.
Enter Peter Conolly, the second part of a relationship element. He might be falling for Mia and vice versa. Peter had money before he met Mia. Because of research for an innovation competition he sponsored, Peter had already decided to invest five million dollars into Mia’s project. Will money promote the romantic relationship or defeat it? That Peter donated the money is not a spoiler. That Mia will work steadily to develop her project is not a spoiler. These form the central themes.
The themes support the story of the woman-makes-good story. Readers do not know whether Mia will succeed. There are several creative obstacles in her path, creative in the sense they are well hidden. Techno illiterates like myself can learn a lot as they follow the paths of Mia and Benjamin, her borrowed computer savant who might succeed in defending attacks from and discovering conspiracies in the dark web. Mia might succeed, she might fail, she might succeed in a way that she is unhappy with the result; Fuller maintains the tension to the end of this stand-alone novel and beyond (remember, this is Book One).
An element highly interesting to me, maybe because it hits me in the face everyday day on CNN, is the possibility of Russian involvement in the US electoral process. As in “real life,” we don’t know if it is true. As in real life, the preponderance of evidence suggests one interpretation. Fuller presents this element with a clever twist. For some Americans, it will be scary. I have never understood media obsession over whether such threats are real or not. Of course, they are real. Such attempts at collecting information are normal procedure for sovereign nations. Let’s move on to lessen and repair the damage. Fuller examines this in a combination of a technical and political thriller. A further political story revolves around the question of the viability of a third party. We have already seen a variation of this. The US has a two-party system, the Republicans and the Democrats, but the Republican party has two parts; one conservative and one an element based on fierce loyalty to a current former real estate sales clerk. Fuller presents the third- party problem in a slightly different way.
Then there is the story of the ten to twelve candidates whose fortunes will rise and fall based on the success of Mia’s project. This story element is where I began to appreciate the range of Fuller’s writing talent. Each of these characters is well-developed and each is different. From Porn Star to Military Hero to Academics both liberal and conservative to Common Mom (and more) the characters are so interesting and memorable that I didn’t need to refer to the occasional synopsis to remind me who was who. The characters were well-developed, not completely developed. This is Book One. Fuller had to become ten different characters to create these candidates. I found the results impressive.
I gave Open Primary five Amazon stars for its comprehensive examination of so many issues. A note to the sensitive politically correct, I used “America” as a convenient shorthand for the US. I know there is more than one. Get over it. This is a three-book series. I will read the next two before the 2018 mid-term US elections. I look forward to reading the next installments almost as much as I look forward to further observing the effects of issues Fuller raised in this novel.
Open Primary sells for USD 3.99 on Amazon and is free through the Kindle Unlimited subscription service (a good deal for people who read a lot).