Happy 5th of July. It's the day after Independence Day, and you might have a bit of a fireworks and freedom hangover today. If you are an angry liberal like me, you might also be wondering whether America is worth celebrating right now. You might be thinking back to happier Julys when our president wasn't a racist and when immigrant children weren't being taken from their parents and when Roe v. Wade didn't seem like it was getting overturned any time soon. You know, happy days when all Joe Biden wanted was an ice cream and our presidential memes were about friendship. You know the ones.
Yeah, there's one. Half of the reason I decided to write this post was to include Joe and Barack memes, so if you're not prepared to look at more, there's the door over there...
Okay, still with me? Let's go.
It's in this political climate, right after the most confusing 4th of July in my time as an American (seriously, I feel like I'm in an emotionally abusive relationship... do I stay and try to make this work? CAN America change?) that author Andrew Shaffer releases his much hyped (by me) novel Hope Never Dies: An Obama/Biden Mystery. This isn't Shaffer's first time working in the parody genre. Check his past releases and he's got a whole slew of goofy titles, such as Fifty Shames of Earl Grey and Catsby, a Great Gatsby parody about cats (duh). This book follows our favorite political duo Obama and Biden as they become detectives. When Joe Biden's favorite railroad conductor dies mysteriously, it's up to Barack and Joe to crack the case. This novel is advertised as BOOK ONE in the Obama/Biden mystery series. Let me decode that for you. That means there will be more Biden and Obama adventures to look forward to. But should we be looking forward to them? Was this book the CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN (TM)? I eagerly read this book to find out.
Let's start with the cover, which deserves our full attention. I love the cover of this book, which should be surprising to no one, because this is published by Quirk Books, and they are notoriously awesome at book covers. See exhibits A and B, which we have discussed on the podcast/blog before: Grady Hendrix's novels Horrorstör and My Best Friend's Exorcism (I love this book so much y'all). It's not just the Grady Hendrix books though, I swear. Just check out any of their titles. Super cool. Okay. So yeah. This is a great cover. Look at the awesome wing design on the car. Look at Obama with his tie flying in the wind, but he's got not time to worry about his tie because there's serious business to attend to over that way (where he's pointing). Look at Biden who's all like, "You're ridin' with Biden." Hell yeah. I'm here for it. So much so that I got myself a pin of this book and have it nicely placed on my tote bag. And I don't even care about pins. Like at all.
But that's the cover, you say. Is the book any good, you ask? Well... yes and no? I don't know what one is really supposed to expect from a parody book like this. To me, this book is worth the price alone to just have out when guests come over, sort of like a conversation piece. The plot of the novel itself doesn't matter in the end. You're picking up this book because you are an angry liberal who just wants to see Obama and Biden ride together again. That's what all of us angry liberals want. That and for Joe Biden to run for president in 2018 (what? No presidential election in 2018? RULES CAN CHANGE!). But really, once you've read the synopsis of the story and have had a nice long look at the cover and chuckled about it, you've gotten everything you need from this book. This book has done its job.
Essentially. This book is like one really long Obama/Biden meme. And there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think it's time for another meme break.
So yes, what was I saying? This book is a really long meme. It's like staring at an Obama/Biden meme for several hours. At first, you chuckle and then you're like, "Okay I get it. Let me put this down for a while." As such, it took me a while to get through this book because every time I started reading it, the meme-ness of it all got old fast. The mystery itself was interesting, but as someone who reads a lot of mysteries, I didn't find that to be the exciting part of the book. The characterizations of the former president and vice president were funny, and that was the highlight of the book.
Let's break the characterization down a bit...
I am a HUGE Joe Biden fangirl, and I'm pretty open about that. I recently finished reading Joe Biden's book Promise Me, Dad, which is about Biden's last year in office and his eldest son's last year battling brain cancer. I recently lost my brother to Leukemia (seriously... FUCK YOU, cancer), so I had strong feelings about Biden's book. I'm no vice president or anything, but his struggles felt painfully familiar. How do you carry on after such an enormous loss? How much are you beholden to what your lost loved one would want you to do, and how much do you have to listen to your own heart and care for yourself in times of pain that seems insurmountable? These are the difficult questions Joe Biden (and anyone who has grieved the loss of a loved one, including myself) has had to deal with over the past few years. After reading Promise Me, Dad, I felt like I should write Joe Biden a letter and personally thank him for putting such difficult feelings into words.
I also had the amazing opportunity to see Joe Biden in person just a month ago, and he mostly talked about Promise Me, Dad and about his work for patient advocacy. Joe Biden may seem like a goofy guy, but he's also someone who has been through a lot and is trying to take that pain and turn it into something positive for everyone else who is going through something similar.
Of course, the Biden in Hope Never Dies is all goofy Biden. There's no a lot of room to explore grieving Biden, and it wouldn't fit with the tone of the book. I understand that. Again, the Biden of this novel is a personified meme and isn't meant to be taken as an actual representation of the man himself. With that being said, having read Biden's own words and seen him talk in person (yes I'm rubbing it in just a bit), I could actually hear him saying the things he says in Hope Never Dies. The personification was not far from the truth; one very important facet of Biden's personality is his goofiness. It's part of why so many people (such as myself) find him endearing.
Let's talk about the other half of this dynamic duo...
This gif pretty much sums up the Barack Obama of Hope Never Dies. He's cool. He's a mic dropper. He is the cool and collected calming force to match Biden's goofiness and hot-headedness. This is an Obama that is partially based on fact (I mean, yes, he did actually drop the mic like that, soo...) and partially based on the Obama that the Internet created based on semi-hero worship.
To be fair, I am less familiar with Barack Obama's personal life. I have a copy of Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, but I haven't read it. And I know The Audacity of Hope is sort of his big important book, but I don't even own a copy of it. Please let me know if you've read it and suggest that I get it though. I'm definitely not opposed! Because of this, I probably see Obama as closer to the unicorn-riding meme than he actually is. He's more of a mystery to me, and in the novel, he's sort of a mystery as well. The book is told from Biden's perspective, and Obama comes off as a super cool dude with plenty of secrets and magic tricks up his sleeves.
So would I recommend this book? If you're really looking to get into a great mystery book, then I would say no. Then again, I don't understand why this is the book you would pick up if you wanted a mystery novel and nothing else. If you think the cover is cool and want to have this lying around your house as a conversation starter about the good old days? Then, yes, absolutely, get yourself a copy IMMEDIATELY. God bless America.