The Eagle Has Crashed is the provocative title of Ted Lacksonen’s first novel. Known as The Country Thinker on the Internet, Mr. Lacksonen has written a tale of what may be in store for this country if we don’t sober up and start walking the straight and narrow. His main concern is our mounting debt and how that could destroy our financial future and, through a chain reaction, tear our nation apart.
The near-future story follows the fortunes of many different people as a time of tribulations begins. Though a few high ranking officials do play a role, including the President of the United States, most of the characters are ordinary citizens in central Ohio, where Mr. Lacksonen lives. When the economy begins to crack, a series of mishaps, tragedies and catastrophes like a crescendo of disaster wracks the country. People become desperate and respond according to their nature, some digging in to take care of themselves, others making sacrifices for what they see as the good of the country.
Though I have some sympathy for it, I am not fully in agreement with the message of the book. I do not believe debt would be the prime driver of an economic collapse. Rather than close the deficit and pay down the debt, I would prefer to see government spending come down. I would even look favorably on, or at least view as an improvement, a budget deal that increased the deficit if it also cut revenues — that Washington euphemism for stolen money — and spending (a real cut, not the fake cuts we have been hearing about). Nevertheless, I do not argue that debt is trivial or innocuous, and it is nice to see an author use it as a backdrop for his tale.
The best aspect of the book is the methodical, measured way in which Lacksonen portrays the unraveling of a nation, with a focus on a few representative stories. Of particular interest are the many tentacles of government shown to squeeze hapless small folk who, in trying to wriggle free of one abuse, find themselves ensnared by a dozen others. Eventually, some are pushed too far and a secessionist movement rises. In central Ohio there is even a mini civil war between secessionists and loyalists, the major players of which groups we have followed through mishaps and calamities until they were pushed to desperate acts.
There are some improvements which could be made with respect to the characters. Many times they are described rather than developed, or we are told things about them rather than shown. As always, it is better to let the reader do some filling in instead of spoon-feeding him.
At all times, characters should act and speak naturally. In The Eagle Has Crashed, they have a tendency to speak as if they know an audience is listening. It can be tricky to get information to a reader, but the difficulty does not excuse efforts that stumble a bit. With a good sense of what a reader can deduce on his own, an author can get him filled in on necessary background without long, expository passages that interrupt the flow of story or peculiar lines in characters’ speeches intended not for a conversation partner in the story, but rather for the person holding the book. While TEHC does not display too much of the former, it does suffer a bit from the latter.
One further thing I would like to see less of are certain leading, obvious statements to end sections. There are too many instances of characters, faced with difficulty, throwing up their hands and saying, “Things can’t get any worse, can they?” Lacksonen’s intentions are to make an important point, and I fully support it. Sometimes, though, the point comes through stronger if made more subtly.
The Eagle Has Crashed is a book for right now, for the times we are going through and for the dangers we face ahead. Economist Robert Murphy took a look at Lacksonen’s economic models and pronounced them a bit on the optimistic side. Things could conceivably wind up worse. It is nice to see all the dry data from the dismal science get turned into a living story, so people can see what the real world effects of those soulless numbers actually are. The work could use a little polishing, but even so there are some dire warnings in it that we would do well to heed.