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Bookmarks Issue: 
24-Sept-Oct-2006
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A-The Eagle’s ThroneIn 2020, Mexican president Lorenzo Terán challenges the U.S. superpower by keeping the cost of oil exports to the U.S. high and condemning the American occupation of Colombia. In response, the American president (Condoleezza Rice, naturally) precipitates a nationwide crisis when she cuts off all satellite power—and hence all electronic communications—to Mexico. Suddenly, all communication within Mexico reverts to handwritten letters. As revealed through the words penned by various scheming, backstabbing, and gossipy politicos, Terán, though only two years into his six-year term, faces challenges that may jeopardize more than his throne.
Random House. 352 pages. $26.95. ISBN: 1400062470

San Francisco Chronicle 5 of 5 Stars
"Fuentes’s scathing novel about national politics and presidential succession seems destined to become a handbook for the neophyte Latin American politician. … Fuentes has never written better." Alan Cheuse

NY Times Book Review 4.5 of 5 Stars
"What results is the most wickedly entertaining novel of Fuentes’s career, now well into its fifth decade… That’s the great joke of this brilliant political novel: Fuentes’s sententious movers and shakers are so busy positioning themselves and trying to figure out where everyone else is in this hall of mirrors that they never quite see themselves." Terrence Rafferty

Baltimore Sun 4 of 5 Stars
"The Eagle’s Throne is a political Dangerous Liaisons, with all the intrigue, blackmail, backstabbing, and seduction of a telenovela. … Although the setting is Mexican, the struggle for power that Fuentes so wryly and compellingly depicts is universal." Judith Redding

Providence Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"The plots literally thicken, the machinations smolder, fester and explode, secrets erupt, murder ensues, lovers change partners faster than you can get your pants off. … None of this attests to the depth and richness of Fuentes’s prose, his philosophical tangents, his relentless focus on flesh, the passage of time and the loss that only memory can restore." Sam Coale

Denver Post 3 of 5 Stars
"There are frequent comparisons with other amoral political arrangements, ranging from Machiavelli’s Florence to the late Richard M. Nixon’s presidential administration. … Fuentes clearly knows his subject and cares deeply about it. What he does not know very well is how to manage epistolary fiction." Merritt Moseley

Rocky Mountain News 3 of 5 Stars
"Named for the presidential seat itself, The Eagle’s Throne is a political thriller of sorts, toying with our preconceived notions of how we communicate, who’s in charge, and how much power an individual truly has when standing up against sometimes-long-established political machinery. … Interestingly, the letters often read as confessionals, as if the writer is more at ease writing the harder truths on paper than speaking them aloud." Jennie A. Camp

Critical Summary

Carlos Fuentes, author of more than 20 books (including The Old Gringo and The Death of Artemio Cruz), knows politics intimately: he served in various government positions in Mexico and as Mexico’s ambassador to France in the mid-1970s. The Eagle’s Throne, a brilliantly scathing satire on presidential succession, is among Fuentes’s best work. Inspired by Machiavelli’s The Prince and other texts, Fuentes personalizes power plays through letters in which characters scheme, betray, plot murders, reveal their sexual peccadilloes, and succumb to desperation. A few critics thought that the epistolary form distanced the reader from the characters and plot, but overall, few better descriptions of the universal struggle for power exist.