C.G. Edmondson and C. M. Kotlan’s 1984 novel TheTakeover isa near-future thriller, written in those long-forgotten days whenAmericans were terrified that the Russians might somehow subvertAmerica’s most basic institutions. Of course, these days we can look back and laugh at such ludicrous fears.
TheRussian military adventure codenamed Cassandra was intended to exploit a moment of American vulnerability and winconcessions for the Soviet Union. Even Cassandra’sarchitect, Undersecretary of Agriculture and Commerce Pikusky, didn’texpect his little project to succeed to the extent it did. TheSoviets wanted trade concessions. They got total conquest!
Orso it seemed.
Stepone was easy enough: convince left-leaning Canada and Mexico to stopselling oil to the US . That, and the troubles in the Middle East,turned the US into an oil-poor nation, in which shortages andrationing were daily realities.
Steptwo was bolder: detonate a small nuclear device in troubled Flyville,one of the Caribbean’s many political hotspots.
Stepthree: send two terminally-ill diplomats to meet with US PresidentCannon. The diplomats will claim that several American cities,including the one in which Cannon stands, have been seeded withconcealed atom bombs. Cannon is given a choice: accept immediateincineration for himself and thousands of Americans or accept Sovietadvisors to assist the US with the crisis.
By“assist”, they of course mean “liquidate anyone willing andable to oppose the Red takeover and pillage of the United States.”
Itwould have been all over save for the mass arrests and executions …but for one man. Admiral Conyers learned of the coming ultimatum intime to take a small fleet of Trident submarines out to sea. TheRussians can nuke a dozen American cities. If Conyers retaliates, hecan end civilization in the Northern Hemisphere.
Conyersis beyond the reach of the Commie Rat Bastards What Took Over Americabut his daughter Angel and her husband Rex Tolliver are not. Or atleast they wouldn’t be if Conyers hadn’t sent an agent to keep aneye on Tolliver and Angel. And if Tolliver himself were not a muchharder target than he appeared.
Nowthe narrative jumps to Mariano, an illegal immigrant with falsepapers. He is not interested in politics; he just wants to keep hishead down while earning enough at Tolliver’s factory to support hisAmerican-born wife Meche and their son Carlitos. When Meche andCarlitos are summarily deported to Mexico, an observant Red politicalofficer notices Tolliver’s name on a slip of paper in Meche’spurse. The reclusive immigrant and his family are now key pieces in agame of power politics.
Thereare not many recently published books published in which the mainAfrican American character  is named something like T. O. Kenn. Iwonder why that is?
It’salways interesting to see Canada through American eyes. Edmondson andKotlan depict the Canada of the 1980s as a ramshackle nation whoseuntrustworthiness as an ally is only matched by its total lack ofnational unity. Mind you, the United States does not come off muchbetter: Canada (and the rest of America’s allies) may have beenbribed by the Russians into turning their back on the US, but the US(thanks to its poor choice of President) does worse: it is occupiedby Soviet advisors.
Thisis a disappointing book — which is something I did not expect from anauthor (Edmondson) whom I remember fondly. The narrative is just onething after another, none of which cohere into a reasonable plot.There’s a meandering subplot involving an oil tanker captain thatprobably should have been cut (or published as another book). Thesudden collapse of the Soviet Empire following its moment ofoverreach is strangely unconvincing — even though the Soviets did infact vanish in a puff of logic within a decade of this novel’spublication.
Inretrospect, it’s not clear to me why “we’ve mined a dozenAmerican cities” is more effective than “we have several thousandnuclear weapons aimed at the US,” which historically was not enoughto get Americans to allow Russian troops on US soil. Nuclearblackmail of this sort was a popular trope back in this era (it alsoshows up in books like AlongsideNight and Ecotopia)but its effectiveness, particularly in a Cold War context, seemsoversold.
Although TheTakeover sticks pretty closely to the standard script for books like this — seealso NotThis August and TheAyes of Texas— thenovel is not without one singular virtue. The authors take an unusualview of American race relations (although not of gender relations). Their perspective is not that of a white man angry that he suddenly has to treat minoritieslike real people. Perhaps the explanation may lie in the facts thatauthor Edmondson’s full name was JoséMario Garry Ordoñez Edmondson y Cotton andthat he was born in Mexico. Perhaps as a result of his ownbackground, he seems to have been aware of the sad history andon-going practice of racism. In the book, the character Mariano andhis family are subjected to continual harassment by the police thanksto the colour of their skin; Meche and her son are kicked over theborder regardless of the fact both are American citizens. It is notcoincidental that this recalls the so-called MexicanRepatriation ‚because the authors themselves make a point of drawing the readers’attention to the Repatriation.
Thisbook has had just the one printing (so far as I can tell). I’dblame this on the lamentable fact that the book is, well, not verygood, but then a clunker like I,Martha Adams was worse and it got at least three editions.
TheTakeover is wildly out of print but used copies may be available here(Amazon). Or in your local used bookstore; print runs in the1980s were huge.
1:It may sound like I am laughing hysterically at the idea Russia couldoffer Canada anything that would compensate for the loss of the USmarket. That is because I am.
2:The other significant African American character, also likely one ofConyers’ agents, does not seem to have a name beyond “the black.”He’s not like that poor African character in Footfall,though, whose only role was to die of terror. “The black” doesnot make it to the end credits, but he does get to go out in a blazeof glory.
3:There’s nothing in this book to offend a hypothetical white dudeangry at feminists. The role of women in this book is to stand bytheir men. Meche stays on mission for the whole book, but spoiledAngel is somewhat less perfect. In part this is because she’sworried her dad will be killed and in part because her husbandTolliver is kind of a dick.