The Naperville White House, by Jerome Bartels

The Naperville White House, Bancroft Press

Today is President’s Day, when we celebrate the birthdays of two of the country’s greatest leaders: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Most people don’t really consider it a holiday, except for the slight inconvenience of bank and post office closings. But what about those people who take their government a little bit more seriously?

The Naperville White House, purportedly by former press secretary Jerome Bartels (but actually by author Mark Pedriani), explores a world 10 years from now, when fantasy government games, instead of fantasy football, are popular in the gaming community. For those who want to be Secretary of State, Director of the FBI, or even President, the Nationizer software game will let them do that by setting up their own fantasy government.

Jay Weise is President of the AG, his alternate government. Fed up with the ineffectualness of the real government, he and his cabinet members have created their own, right down to Weise’s house, which has been remodeled as a replica of the White House. The AG is one of the most popular and highest-scoring fantasy governments in the country, but when the Stockdale hostage crisis happens, this fantasy becomes enmeshed in reality.

The terrorists behind the crisis—driven by Al Qaeda—kidnap five family members of powerful politicians in an attempt to make the United States government admit to possessing a bioweapon aimed at eliminating terrorist sects, an allegation the government denies. When one of the AG is kidnapped as well, President Weise is determined to help save all the hostages. Soon the terrorists are demanding to speak to “the other president,” and the game-players have a real role in the crisis, one that even the real government cannot hope to accomplish.

Not much explanation is given at the beginning of The Naperville White House. Instead, the reader is drawn right into the story as told by Bartels, who has been commissioned to write the “true” story of the Stockdale hostage crisis by President Weise. The book comes across as a real-life, behind-the-scenes account of a turning point in U.S. history, even if it is a fictionalized history.

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