The Patriot Act
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Written by: Robin Polseno
Published by: iUniverse
Reviewed by Ismael Manzano
I came across the Patriot Act, by Robin Polseno, as another book to review for a colleague. I was hesitant to undergo the reading/reviewing process because, although fiction, the book was not by any means, my usual genre, but in the end, that’s exactly why I agreed to read it.
As the title suggests, Patriot Act, is a story deeply rooted in political issues and centers around the usage, effect, and perils, of the bill after which the book was named. The protagonist, Patrick Pellegrino, is a middle-aged man who has worn many hats in his lifetime: husband, musician, aspiring writer, troubled youth, and addict. But when overzealous Port Authority officers detain Patrick for eight hours over what amounts to little more than trespassing under a bridge, his frustration leads him to make a comment over his cell phone that could brand him with a different hat—traitor.
After his grueling day under the scrutiny of Port Authority, Patrick offhandedly remarks that he wants to kill three high ranking government officials while talking to his sister. Little does he know that his cell phone conversation—rhetorical threats and all—had been randomly selected and recorded under the authority provided by The Patriot Act.
Three days later, he is arrested by the FBI, hauled into a Federal Detention Center, charged with threatening the lives of three government officials and sedition.
Luckily, Patrick has a friend in a good place, and with the help of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), obtains two topnotch lawyers (Barry Stern and Carol Mueller), who wholeheartedly believe in his innocence. Together, they prepare a defense to the best of their ability, with conviction and innocence on their side. But with the government out to make an example of him and with his checkered history with drugs and psychiatrists in his youth, can Patrick overcome the seemingly overwhelming machine that is intent on seeing him locked away for the rest of his life?
The Patriot Act, by Robin Polseno, was sort of a mixed pleasure for me. Aside from it not being my usual brand of fiction, the first person narrative was written in a very overly thick and wordy fashion. It’s obvious that Polseno is a well educated person, and versed in many things, such as politics, the English language and the law, but at times, the prose felt more flashy than necessary, such as in the following example from the first paragraph of the second chapter:
“But it ended up being the impetus for a nightmarish odyssey that threatened the greatest gift that anyone can have in this life, the very freedom this country was founded upon but which is in ever shorter supply in the aught years of the 21st century.”
Moreover, his overuse of the word ‘lament’ in the first chapter had me lamenting my choice of reading material, at first.
It isn’t until the third chapter that things begin to pick up, but when it does, it does with brilliant accuracy. Just reading it, I was struck with a chill of discomfort and paranoia on several occasions.. I began to envision myself in the main character’s place, confused and frightened that his freedom would be stripped away over a miniscule mistake. The prose—after the initial tedious first couple of characters—flowed well and created a symphony of emotions that had me hooked and watching who I say things in front of.
That the author’s real life mirror’s the protagonist’s in many ways—according to the bio on the back of the book—I would hazard the guess that the premise for the novel was wrought out of personal experience. For his sake, I hope that it required more imagination that experience, because I would not wish such a fate over something so absurd on anyone.
All in all, I ended up really enjoying the book, and despite a rough, beginning, I would recommend this book to anyone, with this warning: There are more than a few ‘left-leaning,’ views expressed in the book. Whether these views reflect those of the author’s, I do not know, but if you are opposed to such views, perhaps another book would be more to your liking. If you’re open to different points of view or share the protagonist’s point of view, then, by all means, read and enjoy.
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