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A-CheckpointHigh school friends Jay and Ben, now adults, are sitting in a D.C. hotel room, drinking wine from the minibar. They are talking about, among other things, the war in Iraq. Jay is very angry about the current state of the union. In fact, he’s convinced that the only way to rescue this country from certain ruin is to assassinate President George Bush. Will Ben be able to convince him otherwise? And is murder really the answer?
Knopf. 128 pages. $15.95. ISBN: 1400044006

Seattle Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Checkpoint is an angry book. But it’s also a very slippery one. Reading it is a little like holding a wriggling snake in your hands: Its fangs are out, its movements are unpredictable, its direction keeps shifting." Michael Upchurch

USA Today 3 of 5 Stars
"If your blood boils every time you see the current resident of the White House on television or in print … then put Checkpoint at the top of your reading list. Otherwise, steer clear." Deirdre Donahue

NY Times Book Review 2 of 5 Stars
"Except for its inflammatory theme … Checkpoint could be dismissed as another of Baker’s creepy hermeneutical toys. But this is no ordinary inquiry into obsession. The object of Baker’s fascination this time is the murder of the president of the United States. And the fascination is genuine." Leon Wieseltier

Wall Street Journal 1.5 of 5 Stars
"It is mostly a familiar kind of earnest, emotional antiwar invective, recounting news reports of civilian deaths in Iraq. … It all adds up to a sick stunt, executed without flair. … It is enough to make a reader feel badly treated—and morally repelled." Erich Eichman

Entertainment Weekly 0.5 of 5 Stars
"115 puerile pages of anti-Bush hysteria … artless, clumsy, and stupefyingly bad." Jennifer Reese

Critical Summary

If you don’t like George W., you might like Checkpoint—at least its uncontrolled rage against the administration. In his seventh novel, Baker focuses his trademark style of writing minutiae on a rambling conversation between two Bush detractors. "[It] makes Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 look like a work of Jamesian subtlety and nuance. There isn’t a graceful or interesting sentence in this blunt, plotless, obscenity-laden screed," says Entertainment Weekly. The New York Times Book Review calls it a "scummy little book." Other reviews did not improve the book’s (or political tirade’s?) standing. Checkpoint may be worth reading as a passionate analysis of the Iraq war, but, even with its heightened emotion, it’s not a very original or engaging one.