The Usurper King by Zeb Haradon


“I spent a lot of time rural Utah growing up, and I understood something about the aggressive stupidity and defiant self destructiveness that these relatively cosmopolitan politicians barely knew existed."

4.5 Stars : Ted Just Admit It

What if on August 16, 1975, Ted Bundy didn't get arrested and avoided the pending doom and end of his life and continue to go unnoticed, finish law school and become a politician?  Author Zeb Haradon's "what if"  isn't a far fetch scenario, think about how many decades do serial killers go on killing before they are caught think of B.T.K.

"The Usurper King" is a political fantasy/ thriller, leans heavy on pop culture references but in a right way while the events of the book sometimes come off as absurd Zeb manages to present it with a seriousness that could have been easily dismissed a just plain stupid.  Jim is our main protagonist in a series of unfortunate personal failures, alcoholism, loss of employment, a bitter divorced, and contracting a virus that is aging him. Jim will attempt to cash out on what he is good at "extispicy," the practice of predicting the future or reading omens by reading the entrails and liver of animals ( an old world real practice ) by entering a TV game show called "Guts." During Jim's winning streak the backdrop is the presidential election with Ted Bundy ex-governor of Utah with the campaign slogan "If you can’t trust someone like Ted Bundy, you can’t trust anyone" vs. JW. Zeb keeps the story grounded as much as he can with this premise as Jim continues to win at extispicy on "Guts," but failing as a father, getting deeper into alcoholism, and battling his aging virus. His winning streak is not ratings gold, so the show brings in a ringer, an uncouth Hillbilly that is also just as good at reading entrails, but Ted Bundy keeps coming up. Jim and the Hillbilly (noble and smart )  form a partnership because past events tied Jim to Ted Bundy, as they venture to expose Ted Bundy and take on the system. Zeb sprinkles other modern social ills such gun violence and populism in politics.

As mentioned above Zeb manages to write a plausible thriller or alternate historical thriller that could have become very stupid and unreadable he does it with a seriousness (with humor)  that makes this book readable and enjoyable.  The book does have some pacing issues when it comes to his ex-wife and son, especially the ex-wife and her backstory she doesn't come off likable at all and I don't see why would Jim ever be with her. But books need fillers sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. I find that The Usurper King 's world could use more books because there are other tidbits that are intriguing to expand on.

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