STARRED REVIEW
August 2015

A witty alternative history of the Cold War

By Austin Grossman
Review by
The trick to a good alternate history, particularly one that’s trying to be as impish and unpredictable as Crooked, is walking a delicious but delicate line between the weird and the plausible. You don’t want the story to veer into territory so unbelievable that it becomes a farce, but neither do you want to follow the straight and narrow. Austin Grossman (You) knows how to walk this line, and as a result he’s delivered a fiendishly entertaining book.
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The trick to a good alternate history, particularly one that’s trying to be as impish and unpredictable as Crooked, is walking a delicious but delicate line between the weird and the plausible. You don’t want the story to veer into territory so unbelievable that it becomes a farce, but neither do you want to follow the straight and narrow. Austin Grossman (You) knows how to walk this line, and as a result he’s delivered a fiendishly entertaining book.

Our story begins with the premise that everything you know about Richard Nixon is wrong. He is not simply a disgraced politician whose own susceptibility to corruption and lust for power and victory doomed him. He is something much more. In Crooked, a young Nixon, years from the presidency, stumbles upon a supernatural secret behind the Cold War, something that shatters his view of how the world works. Armed with and suffering from this knowledge, Nixon embarks on a personal quest to become powerful and protect his nation, crafting in the process an alternate narrative that reimagines him as the best president the United States ever had. 

The imaginative power Grossman deploys in Crooked is staggering. If you’ve ever been taken by alternate history before, or you just want a truly engrossing yarn to keep you up at night, this is the book for you—but that’s far from the only reason to read. From the beginning, Grossman understands that to buy his premise, you need to buy his version of Nixon. So he roots the story in the president’s voice, crafting a man who understands his own shortcomings, who realizes that his motives aren’t always pure, and who wants something more for himself even if it will cost him. This is a Nixon with a depth even the man himself never had in the public eye, and that depth makes the jokes land harder and the truths appear sharper.

Crooked is a wonderfully entertaining book that will please both political junkies and fantasy fans, but it also makes us see Nixon in a new light.

 

This article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Crooked

Crooked

By Austin Grossman
Mulholland
ISBN 9780316198516

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