At the core of Roger G. King’s first novel Affirmative Action is a second American Civil War. This fits in nicely with the expanding genre of apocalyptic American fiction. There is a fine old German word, zeitgeist, that translates into English as “Spirit of the Age” and its application here is rather worrying. If a growing number of writers are sensing that America is heading towards mass violence and government overthrow, is that something that is actually a possibility?

King outlines a quite probable scenario in this violent action thriller. His title is a well-chosen double entendre. In its conventional usage, affirmative action is the blanket term for the various laws and regulations intended to re-balance the historical inequalities faced by minorities and women. It is an absolute truth that as some power is shifted towards a specific group that in turn means that some other group has its own power trimmed. The latter group tends not to be very fond of that. Therefore, the group that is feeling weakened chooses to protest, or put another way, take affirmative action.

“You two, stay here, call in the state police, and hold that girl and everyone in the club for questioning.”

Anti-affirmative action groups have been around since the first Civil War: the Ku Klux Klan, the John Birch Society and the American Nazi Party come to mind. They have been largely ignorable as an odious minority, except – and this is where King applies a logical plausibility to his scenario – members could very well rise in the ranks of the military, the FBI or other government agencies. Add in the ready availability of high-powered weaponry and a second Civil War seems not so far-fetched.

As a novelist, King makes the wise choice to not make his canvas too large. He focuses on the classic small band of defenders who seek to take down the insurrectionist revolutionaries. That keeps the plot within the scope of the reader’s interest by making the fate of the individual’s personal. We care about what happens. Equally, the various rogue Colonels and other insurrectionists are carefully detailed and vivid. We believe these people exist.

Affirmative Action is an uncomfortable read and that is a good thing, for discomfort brings with it vigilance. Let us hope that this Civil War nightmare remains just a nasty dream