Agitators by Mike Van Lear
“Relationships are dependent on trust, something I no longer have in you.”
Agitators is an engrossing and compelling sci-fi political thriller that explores the future consequences of a society in 2024 that has become divisive and polarized. It is Mike Van Lear's first novel.
Author Mike Van Lear
The current political situation spurred him on to write Agitators. Van Lear feels America has experienced considerable change in in the past 30-40 years, particularly from the cultural and economic perspectives. Paramount is the erosion of the middle class. In Agitators he posits the immigrant scapegoat blame game, in this case, Muslims. How we process and react to it is an important consideration for him.
With an approaching presidential election that could have far reaching effects, nation and world wide tensions are running high in Agitators. The story shifts between two major characters, presidential candidate Earl “Dutch” Chapman and secret service agent Lou Denslow. A supporting cast of characters include: Vincent, Lou's father, Tony and Ben, Lou's childhood friends, Carissa, a love interest of Lou's from several decades ago and Archie and Ester, Chapman's adoptive parents. The characters are positioned in a country of increased political unrest, disillusionment, xenophobia views, technology breakthroughs, renewable energy issues, time travel, drones and restrictive legislative gun control.
Given the political climate and unrest laid out in Agitators, Van Lear was wise to develop the character of Lou as one of the main players. Lou brings some normalcy to the story which readers can relate to. His relationship with his father, the friendship and camaraderie with childhood friends, Tony and Ben which lead to some new and unique friends and a renewed love interest and commitment with Carissa help balance the tension of an often chaotic brimming political scene. Van Lear develops an urban Minneapolis setting for the book. Since he spent his youth growing up in the area his descriptive writing is an accurate portrayal. His love of outdoor adventures in Lake Superior, Minnesota's BWCA and Canada's Quetico Park comes across in the story.
The story opens with the reader learning more about brimming and often volatile clashes between groups Agitators (Agits) and Hajjis. There are protests nationwide that have been escalating since 2022. These behaviors rooted in religious tensions have soared after the influx of Muslim refugees in many parts of the US, including Minneapolis with the impending 2024 elections. The US involvement in Middle East War raises the stakes of incumbent president assassination by Hajjis. Lou, a secret service agent, is faced with the moral dilemma of having to support Chapman, a candidate who he abhors and one that could conceivably get elected over the incumbent, President Drummond. Also added to his dilemma is pressure from his father Vincent for Lou to retire early since full benefits are available after his decades of service. There is a threat to Lou's safety regardless of who wins the race. Since trust is highly valued by the Denslow family, Lou finds the trust level suddenly eroding with his father's mysterious involvement in what Vincent calls the cusp of a historical breakthrough in science.
Van Lear's portrayal of the making of a presidential candidate was fascinating. Chapman learned at an early age the power of persuasion and how to capitalize on the fears of the populous with the age old method of allegiance building and finding a scapegoat. Chapman is cunning and opportunistic, and the Hajjis were an easy target. Though he was not the official head of the Agitator movement, Chapman did share their belief of white dominance and used it to his advantage. His camp team of xenophobia propagandists set their sights on creating strategies to alienate groups and set them apart. Van Lear hopes readers will reflect on the possible consequences of allowing divisiveness to run rampant offering some morally problematic possibilities of a better world, The book title Agitators reflects these behaviors going unchecked. The author poses a lot of what if questions for readers to think about but in doing so he also hopes readers will take note of the need to appreciate family, and friends and importance of their support as demonstrated by the characters in the story.
Check out Van Lear's website https://mikevanlear.com/ for ordering his book. The website also includes his blog articles on how his personal experiences have shaped his writing with articles of interest related to topics found in the book Agitators. The book is available in Kindle format. His Facebook author page is https://www.facebook.com/MikeVanLearAuthor/
An interesting side note: The author used a contest service provided by a company called 99 Designs. 61 designs were submitted by 20 freelance designers and the author picked the winning design for his book cover.
I was fortunate to have author input for this review.