In this freewheeling, fiercely satirical novel, acclaimed Mexican author Fuentes once again prowls the corridors of power, this time imagining how Mexican realpolitik might be practiced a generation hence. The year is 2020, and the country, burying its long traditions of the previous century, has been through several presidential elections whose winners were not decided in advance. Although still a novelty, democracy has shown itself to have many faces, some of them quite perverse. The book's cast of scheming characters includes cabinet officials, ex-presidents, lovers, advisers, kingmakers, and barbaric strongmen who unfurl the story through nearly 70 letters and cassette tapes. An epistolary novel seems misplaced in an age of cell phones and e-mail, but the premise here is that the United States has crippled its neighbor's communications infrastructure in retaliation for policy conflicts. The narrative hinges on a genuine, potential dilemma for the Mexican government: selecting a replacement for a president unable to complete the six-year term. This is a novel of ideas rather than action, and impatient readers may have trouble with its pace, but plot twists and surprises pepper the final chapters. Fuentes fans will appreciate the ties with his splendid suite of stories about the U.S.- Mexico border region, La frontera de cristal (The Crystal Frontier, Alfaguara, 1995). Recommended for all bookstores and libraries with an interest in fiction.
Bruce Jensen, Spanish in Our Libraries (SOL), Hollywood, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.