Saturday, January 24, 2009

Book Review: Unintended Consequences

The following book review was originally published in the Spring 1996 issue of The Resister.

I purchased an additional copy for my friend, at the time, Doug Graen. Doug refused to read it citing some alleged adverse physiological effect. Mr Graen later got himself surgically mutilated and changed "her" name to Dana Wolfe. "Ms. Wolfe" supported and voted for Die Grosse Null on the grounds that the aforementioned Chicago Marxist will restore the true Constitution and Bill of Rights. I shouldn't have to say that the former Doug has serious problems with the concept of reality.

Unintended Consequences. John Ross. Accurate Press, 7188 Manchester Road, St. Louis, MO 63143. ISBN 1-888188-04-0. Hardback. 863 pp. 1996. $28.95.

By now, almost everybody even peripherally connected with the so-called gun culture has at least heard about John Ross' novel Unintended Consequences. This novel chronicles the federal government's war on the gun culture, with an ultimate conclusion that has been called "uplifting" by some and "horrifying" by others. Make no mistake, this is one book that does not provoke halfhearted responses from those who read it.

One of the earliest reviewers, Dr. Edgar Suter of Doctors for Integrity in Policy Research said it was "the most important work of fiction I have read in over a decade." Syndicated columnist Vin Suprynwicz terms it "a masterwork," and "the first modern novel of liberty since Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged." Aaron Zelman of the Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership agrees, but uses another comparison. "If civil war breaks out in present-day America, it will most likely be for the reasons Ross describes in this riveting thriller. What Harriet Beecher Stowe did in the 1850's to promote individual freedom John Ross has done for the current struggle for individual freedom in the 1990s."

In the opposite camp, some readers have been both shocked and mightily offended by the book's subject. One appeaser at NRA dismisses it as "that sick book." Others have accused Mr. Ross of attempting to incite violence with his plot. This is ludicrous, given that Ross is running for U.S. Congress as a pre-Roosevelt Democrat and is currently favored to win that party's Missouri primary in August. Nonetheless, one senator involved with the Ruby Ridge hearings has read Ross' book and remarked "I now get cold chills up my spine every time I walk out the front door of my house in the morning." Maybe he should.

We at The Resister are of the firm opinion that Unintended Consequences is required reading for anyone with any interest in this country's future, and we were pleased when Mr. Ross agreed to tell us why he wrote it. This book has created a firestorm of controversy, not because there is some violence in it (which we think is rather restrained), but because the plot is plausible, and based on existing facts and historic precedent. Ross has succeeded in writing that rarest of thrillers: a dynamic story with overwhelming national significance, yet one which requires no leap of faith or suspension of disbelief. We predict you will not be able to put it down.


The Author Speaks Out

Many people have speculated on why I wrote Unintended Consequences. Most of their theories are wrong. "Gun guys," as they are often called, comprise a distinct cultural group in America. This fact is uniformly ignored by almost everyone, despite the fact the gun culture now numbers in the millions.

In the 1920s, members of the gun culture sat in the cold on their bunks at Camp Perry, Oho, meticulously caring for the handmade Springfield .22 target rifles they would fire in competition the next day. When the President proudly announces that, today (seventy years later), he is ordering those same guns thrown into a blast furnace, we in the gun culture experience powerful emotions. They are the same emotions that a Native American would feel upon being told that the President was proudly ordering the destruction of war clubs and other valued tribal artifacts. They are the same emotions that Jews the world over felt while viewing footage of Sturmtroopen gleefully burning intricate copies of the Torah.

In addition to being a member of this culture, I have been politically involved in gun issues for many years. While giving lectures and presentations, I am constantly amazed by the number of people who are unaware of major historic events involving individual rights. The Government's treatment of the Bonus Marchers, the particulars of the Miller case, the Warsaw ghetto resistance in 1943, and other watershed events, are completely unknown to a startling number of Americans. Understanding this history is vitally important to our future.

The author of an entertaining thriller can reach an audience untouched by the average historian. Tom Clancy, and now others, have brought knowledge of military operations to millions of readers who previously had no familiarity or interest in this area. Now, millions of people have a basic understanding of our military hardware, and the decisions our leaders have to make before it is used.

In my generation no one, who I am aware of, has applied the technique of the blockbuster novel to the subject of individual liberty. It has definitely never been done from the viewpoint of the gun culture, and that is why I wrote the story that I did. Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, written four decades ago (and reviewed in this publication's last issue), deals with the subject of liberty, but that author invented some assumptions which strained credulity in addition to violating the laws of physics. In writing my novel, I felt obligated to invent nothing which had not already happened in history. Several reviewers have mentioned this fact as one of the book's greatest strengths. It is also why the critics find it so terrifying.

Aaron Zelman at Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership has likened my book to Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, written in 1853. Although I was not consciously thinking of this work specifically when I wrote Unintended Consequences, the parallel is right on target.

In 1850, most northerners had no personal knowledge of slavery and could not understand what all the fuss was about. Slaves got three square meals a day and guaranteed housing in a climate where you could comfortably go barefoot in the middle of January. Slaves cost upwards of a thousand dollars each -- a tremendous sum 145 years ago. What businessman would abuse or damage such a valuable investment? To someone in Chicago or New York, who had to feed and support himself in the middle of winter, speech-making abolitionists were a bunch of eccentrics who needed to get a life.

That attitude changed almost overnight with Stowe's phenomenally successful novel. The real-life horrors of slavery were shown to appalled Americans with a power that no soap-box orator could hope to match, and Uncle Tom's Cabin soon became the largest-selling work of fiction ever produced in America.

History is repeating itself. Today, Americans who don't own guns cannot fathom what all the fuss is about. They can't understand what the big deal is about magazine capacity, or muzzle threads, or a few day's wait. These people need to be shown, in the clearest possible terms, that our government is shooting nursing mothers in the head and fourteen-year-old boys in the back because a piece of wood was 3/8" too short. Our government is burning citizens alive over suspected $200 tax disputes, and throwing people in prison over one-dollar bottle couplings.

The gun culture has been under ever-increasing assault for six decades. Honest, successful, talented, productive, motivated people are being stripped of their freedom and dignity. The conflict has been building for over half a century, and the warning flags are frantically waving while the instigators rush towards the abyss, and their doom.

If Unintended Consequences can bring about a fraction of the enlightenment that Harriet Beecher Stowe's work accomplished more than a century ago, I will consider it an overwhelming success.


No comments: