KIRKUS REVIEW

In a very recognizable dystopian near-future, a man confronts an unthinkable catastrophe.

In McCord's debut novel, the current events of the morning newspaper have been morphed and extended into a future that seems all too likely: devastation wrought on the American coastal range by massive hurricanes, violently divisive politicians, devastating new plagues and widening social stratification. McCord’s satire teeters hilariously on the border of the absurd, characterized in the person of Texas governor Lawrence Bowie (anointed by the Real American Party), an outsized parody of any number of recent American politicians. “Do facts matter?” he asks at one point. “Of course they don’t, especially when they contain seeds of moocher political agendas. Facts are for girly-men and do-gooders who care about such trivial distinctions.” The archnemesis of Bowie and the RAP is incumbent president Burt Octavian, an “illegitimate president who is a Black Muslim plant that suckled at the breasts of terrorists and has resurrected the Black Panther Party to kill law-abiding white patriots.” The book’s main character, television producer James Bravtart, is entangled in the escalating violence of this warped future in which political parties elevate Atlas Shrugged to a religion and TV networks reap riotous ratings with shows likeForeclosure JusticeThe Real Homeless of Malibu Beach, and the show of the title,The Execution Channel, on which public executions are broadcast 24 hours a day. The book’s headlong farce bogs down in its third act when the Rand-ian musings tend to get too much stage time, but even this doesn’t much blunt the fierce intelligence behind the story. And The Execution Channel’s meteoric success (and the success of sister programs like Final Justice Live) brings the whole narrative back into focus and plays in the background of the book’s many thriller-style plotlines. And rollicking through the whole thing is Gov. Bowie, making outrageous quips to the press and constantly invoking the wisdom “Mama Bowie” handed down to him as a boy. 

A pointed and very funny mockery of our current cynical age.

Jan. 10, 2014 -- Online review here.

 

*****

Political Satire Fiction at its Best

Midwest Book Review

The Execution Channel: A Political Fable is political satire fiction at its best, and is designed to entertain (or piss off) just about every reader, no matter what his political beliefs. While all its characters are fictional creations, they are (with no pointing fingers) all too familiar to any who live in modern-day America with its ironies and inconsistencies.

Here in 2018 'Real America' there's motive on all sides. There's also a faith-based economy, elusive magical promises that never quite jive with reality, a future America that worships something called the 'Galtian Imperatives', and a new illusory founding father of all this farce and circumstance; one John Galt (a fictional figure from Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged', who doesn't believe in government and believes making money is mankind's highest goal), whose vision has not just captured but imprisoned America.

Over it all stands The Execution Channel, a popular TV show that features live executions in football stadiums, much as the ancient Romans enjoyed with their lion-based coliseum entertainment system.

In this new America led by Galtian ideals there are other characters who all represent self-interests and objectives, from a Texas militia leader who wants democracy by bullet to a billionaire's interest in politics as a platform for spreading his economic powers.

Now, all of this sounds frighteningly possible: where's the dark satire or humor in this?

 For one thing, the dialogue and presentations are tongue-in-cheek even as they condemn many modern nuggets of this future world's actions:

“He’s an imposter. The career congressman may have a 100 percent Liberal Hater rating, but it’s a front of deceit meant to subvert the Galtian Imperatives,” Bowie said. Political analysts said the most devastating blow came when Bowie’s campaign discovered that Someret once had paid one percent of the health insurance premiums for the employees at his balloon-making factory."

For another, the scenarios are solidly rooted in today's politics … only this future world takes modern standards to the extremes of logic, justification, and irony:

 I think if they are lucky, there will be quick trials before the ruling local militia. Hopefully for their sake, such a procedure will lead to quick executions, probably one shot each in the head, and if proper procedures are followed, their families will be charged for the bullets and the legal accommodations. Luckily, the families won’t have to pay much for a burial because the militias practice market efficiency and most bodies these days are being dumped at sea for sharks to consume. This service is becoming quite the job-creating industry so it’s win-win for a lot of people. Did you know we learned that little trick of disposing the evidence from our good and efficiently ruthless friends in in Chile and Argentina? They became experts at disappearing bodies in the 1970s. More importantly, they knew how to make a point.”

With its quirky confrontations and dialogue, The Execution Channel succeeds in dancing between science fiction, political commentary, and social satire: and this is no easy dance. To create such satire, one must be politically astute beyond the usual reactionary stance - and author Michael McCord's background as an award-winning political commentator and journalist is just the ticket for taking these observations not just to their extremes, but injecting a sense of ironic humor into the mix.

 

The result is a hard-hitting yet accessible piece that toes the line between science fiction and political satire: a kind of dark comedy if you will, with its roots firmly centered in modern-day sentiments and trends. Readers seeking something different, challenging, and fun will welcome The Execution Channel's quirky presentation of an all-too-possible America where “Revolutions devour their own.”

 

D. Donovan

Senior eBook Reviewer

Midwest Book Review

December 2013

Read the online review here.

 

*****

With colorful characters so ludicrous they could only be real, McCord’s satire of profit, politics, and capital punishment should be required reading

Clarion Review

If an empty chair remains at the virtual dinner table of Voltaire, Joseph Heller, George Orwell, and Jonathan Swift, reserve it for Michael McCord, whose bold satire,The Execution Channel: A Political Fable, should be required reading for every American. It is laugh-out-loud funny and so chilling readers should don fur coats before opening the book.

McCord is a freelance journalist, editor, columnist, and veteran political reporter. A master of satire, he cleverly derides both human folly and vice. As columnist and humorist Art Buchwald once said, “You can’t make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you’re doing is recording it.” It’s frightening to realize that’s precisely what McCord has done in The Execution Channel, his first novel.

This dark satirical romp will surely raise the hackles of people of all political stripes, albeit for different reasons. In the author’s fictional country, “Real America,” the profit motive guides all decisions; textbooks extol the virtues of the Ku Klux Klan and compliment slaveholders for “attention to profits”; politicians engage in a “War on the Poor”; neighborhood militias arm themselves with legal backyard rocket-launchers and missiles; and the “Liberty Court” rules that capital punishment appeals delay justice and therefore are “economically inefficient.”

In Real America, three characters join forces to glorify public executions that feed the belly of the profit monster. Lawrence C. “Demon Seed” Bowie, governor of the Real American Republic of Texas, rules through greed, corruption, and unparalleled devotion to the “Galtian Imperatives,” a reference to profit prophet Ayn Rand and her Atlas Shrugged hero, John Galt. “Real Americans should not let this wicked practice of majority rule ever happen again,” Bowie declares, explaining that the “outdated one-man one-vote scheme endangered our rights to exist as a party because there were more of you than of us.”

Bowie partners with mega-financier James “Big Stake” Frimmer and down-on-his-luck reality television show producer Jason Bravtart to create “The Execution Channel,” a “televinet” show with live broadcasts of gory executions staged in the 65,000-seat Final Justice Stadium. The program is intended to eliminate the “dead-weight inefficiencies of democracy” and enrich the rich at every opportunity.

McCord writes in an uncluttered journalistic style. His plot is solid, filled with sufficient twists and turns to sustain attention and curiosity. The colorful characters are so ludicrous they could only be real. McCord’s political world also includes “characters” so immediately recognizable they are disguised only by Saran Wrap—President Burt Octavian, a black man “born in Africa and Indonesia simultaneously,” and Carrie Hilton, a woman running for President in 2016.

 

Read The Execution Channel: A Political Fable and it will make you guffaw, cringe, and wipe cold sweat from your brow. Then give copies to everyone you know. The future of the real America may depend on it.

 

Nancy Walker
September 24, 2013

Read the online review here.

 

*****

 

The Execution Channel is a brave new read

Keene (NH) Sentinel

Satire is scant these days, but Michael McCord's "The Execution Channel" is pulling up the slack. McCord doesn't tiptoe into the far-out science fiction future to stake his claims. McCord zooms straight into a nearby rendition of the tea party Congress — straight into a boil of Ayn-Randian Atlas Shruggers. And that includes the ultimate mass-audience end-game shocker of all horrible time — the Execution Channel.
Plus, we're away to only the year 2018.
We're so close to today that “History has no function in America,” McCord, of Exeter, writes in his playful political fable.
Gov. Bowie, founding father of the Execution Channel, is leader of the Real America Party with presidential aspirations, propelled by the Mad Hatter election wave of 2010. Bowie states that what he has done for the Real America Republic of Texas (RART) he will do for all Real America: “We have privatized every vital state function.”
Not only that, but never again will Real America people allow a president to be re-elected when "it was proven he was born in Africa and Indonesia simultaneously."
The madcap world of McCord is peopled with mad-headed Americans bent on Bible-izing the “Atlas Shrugged” hero John Galt, the preacher of Me Me Misms. Another one is Jason Bravtart, the documentary producer of “The Real Homeless of Malibu Beach” depicting those people who cash unemployment and Social Security checks for medical marijuana and partake “in comfortable cardboard housing.”
The national Galt Street Journal rebukes the documentary, but Bowie's people retort: “Since when did reality matter?” The rebuke is only a fog anyway because the Galt Street Journal cannot risk too much reality.
Soon, Galtian Imperatives gain wider acceptance. Millionaires turning into billionaires join the accumulating followers by selling bad mortgages to unsuspecting investors and then make more money by creating and selling the nation's largest foreclosure services.
These rich realize who they are — geniuses.
As the years evolve, new economic policies and social programs pass into law — The War on the Poor, Guardians of Galt, Real America Citizen Tax.
Televinet producer Jason becomes enamored with Gov. Bowie's mind-blowing money-making program “The Execution Channel,” created to combine “death with financial opportunity.”
Jason extols "the genius of the Romans who gave their citizens bread, circuses, and gladiator bouts to the death, crucifixions and lions devouring Christians."
The seed idea for the Execution Channel grows fast from a pay-per-view to a full-fledged network.
Just as Monday Night Football was manufactured to capture the American populace, so, too, is “Execution Night in America.”
Developed to convince people of the seriousness of “The Execution Channel,” each program would present audience interviews, historical re-enactments throughout the centuries, physiological details of death by execution, scientific psychological fill-in reports, innovative execution methods, victim family reactions.
Americans are ready; they already have in-depth descriptions of waterboarding and electric shock-induced confessions.
Actually, Gov. Bowie of Real America Republic of Texas is “already executing an average of three criminals a week.”
Maybe the rest of America really is ready to click on the home screen.

McCord writes the storyline straight to the reclusive multi-billionaire James "Big Stake" Frimmer, who subdivides land around the national capital. The goal: cook up state financing for a public execution stadium under a dome (named Final Justice Stadium) with seating for 60,000 fans.

Then Frimmer buys hundreds of thousands of copies of “Atlas Shrugged," placing the novel on the bestseller list. When Frimmer's think tanks conduct a test in New Hampshire, McCord writes, the Mad Hatters proved they didn't even have to bother with hearings to get what they wanted.

Suddenly, privatization spreads fast because owners of anything discover they at last have no accountability to think about, along with the Real America freedom to issue their own arrest warrants. Companies get richer: “Why should taxpayers be bothered with local police or silly government agencies like the FBI when we can feel better that the private sector is on the case?”
Finally, “The Execution Channel” schedules its first national show, starring condemned prisoner William Notman. But, first, producer Jason tells the condemned star, "You are going to be executed in 11 days and I'm here to make you a deal. I want to make your death worthwhile and profitable for your family while serving a higher free market good for Real America.”
He points out to Notman that “you don't need lawyers anymore. What you need is a good producer.” He doesn't mention that Notman is innocent and needs a good storyline to exploit. Jason negotiates family payment for Notman — $250,000 for a firing squad execution or up to $750,000 for a dog attack. The show is a sellout.

Far-fetched? Michael McCord gives “The Execution Channel” full rein to the far side of the fetch. On the other hand, he can point to many can-you-believe-it social progressions, including those from child labor to adult slavery, the American Civil War to Newtown, Conn., sling shots to atomic bombs. 

 

Steve Sherman

Nov. 3, 2013

Read the online review here.

 

*****

 

Must Read: The Execution Channel: A Political Fable is a Look

at America’s Possible Tea Party Future

Veracity Stew

Michael McCord’s, The Execution Channel: A Political Fable, is a critique of modern politics and a warning of what might come to pass. The evolution of the Real American Republic of Texas brings to mind an Orwellian future where Big Brother not only watches us, but strives to take away basic human rights for the greater good of the country.

Governor Lawrence C. “Demon Seed” Bowie brings to mind both the colorful historical character Jim Bowie who died at the battle of the Alamo, and of course our most recent gun-slinging Texas Republican, former President George W. Bush. A famous illustration featured in Connecticut’s Journal Inquirer during the 2001-2003 era showed former President Bush strolling through the streets with a ten-gallon hat and six-shooters, ready to defend the country against tyranny, even if it’s in his own backyard. So too does Gov. Bowie defend his country against any perceived threat…even if that threat comes in the form of his own people.

The Execution Channel is formed due to lust McCord’s Real American Republic has for public execution. And wouldn’t a good deal of us watch this channel if it were on, say, a few clicks down from FOX news? Based on the idea of Roman public executions and the spectacle pleasing the mob, isn’t it something that we’ve all thought of once in a while? Why are we keeping murderers and rapists well fed in prison? Why not let them kill each other off and spare the Republic our hard-earned tax dollars? In the words of Charles Dickens, “If they’re going to die they’d better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” Right?  Right?  Jason Bravtart, creator of the Execution Channel, might agree.

In Chapter Six, McCord tips his hat again to George Orwell, quoting the quintessential political fable Animal Farm, and its chorus of sheep; “Four legs good, two legs bad.”  The two power houses, Gunner and Frimmer, are the true brains behind Real America. We find them discussing how the people don’t need to think anymore, that they do the thinking for everyone. Equating the people to sheep…and in essence, showing us that the ideals of political despots will be followed by the masses. McCord has certainly done his homework, lending the moral of Animal Farm to the Galtian Imperative….that religion is the opiate of the masses. And where power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Interestingly enough, Bravtart meets his match while trying to set up his first public execution with one Will Notman, an innocent prisoner on death row. Bravtart temps Notman with money for his family, and Notman, laughing in the face of death, throws the words of Bravtart’s hero, Hank Rearden; “I will not help you to preserve an appearance of rationality by entering a debate in which a gun is the final argument. I will not help you to pretend that you are administering justice.” In this Chapter, we find out Notman is a victim of the system, and his innocence is confirmed. The question becomes, does the law allow for murder?  Is that an administration of justice? Or social irony?

Michael McCord has created a dystopian image of American society in the not-so-distant future. No stranger to politics, McCord covered his first New Hampshire Presidential Primary in 1980.  Since then, he has been hailed as an award-winning journalist. He has had the opportunity to speak to some of today’s top-name politicians, including President Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential primary season.

 

The Execution Channel: A Political Fable gives us a warning about where the state of American politics may be heading, as well as a tongue-in-cheek, sometimes irreverent and eyebrow-raising peek at today’s extremist headlines.

 

Jessica Handly

Oct. 21, 2013

Read online version here

 

*****

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