I just finished reading two books, Maria Vale’s Season of the Wolf and Carl Hiaasen’s Squeeze Me. Both made me think about the role of politics in fiction.

In Vale’s The Legend of All Wolves series, the reader sees human incursion into nature and man’s love of sport hunting from the perspective of wolves. Vale doesn’t use phrases like climate change and habitat loss, but her point is inescapable: Humanity is wreaking havoc on the wild.

In Hiaasen’s Squeeze Me, the world is on a fast track to hell and a good portion of that can be blamed on the President of the United States–a not even thinly disguised Donald Trump–well into his second term. The President, known only as Mastodon, his Secret Service code name, would make a turkey look like a Nobel prize winning scientist, his ethics are on par with Boss Tweed, and his self-absorption makes Joan Crawford look like Mother Teresa. He’s a caricature of indolent evil. To read this book is to be advised, page after page, that the man in the Winter White House is a turd.

I’ve read other books by Hiaasen–he’s a fearsomely talented writer and while I enjoyed parts of Squeeze Me, I found much of it a slog. To read it was to be, albeit very humorously, hectored. Furthermore, after a day spent, in part, reading the news, encountering overt political messaging just made me, well, tired.

I didn’t have that sense while reading Vale’s books. There, the reader see the world as the wolves do and is left to, on her own, think about why the wolves are so threatened and what part we, those who live in the real world, might play in that. No story, and certainly not Vale’s, exists outside a political context. But in her fictional world, the political context is just that, context. It’s not the main message.

Reading both books made me realize–yet again–how little I like to be hectored in books. Squeeze Me felt like hyper-politicized idea masquerading as a novel. Season of the Wolf’s story, on the other hand, is a superb tale that just happens to make one think about environmentalism. I am a reader who vastly prefers the latter.

How about you? Do you like politics and political themes in your novels? What books do you think do politics well? Are there books you’ve felt harangued by? Let us know.


Dabney Grinnan
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Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.