Book Review: Matthew Bracken’s Enemies Trilogy

One of the big hits in the libertarian/gun owner world, aside from Rawles’ Patriots series, is Matthew Bracken’s Enemies trilogy – Enemies Foreign And Domestic, Domestic Enemies: The Reconquista, and Foreign Enemies And Traitors. Bracken was one of the first in the gun community to have widespread success as a libertarian fiction author; the books are published under his own imprint and he distributes them mostly through gun show sellers and online (lesson for me: know your target audience). They’re long (500+ pages) and deal with the same classic topics found in others of the genre: overreaching government that infringes on the liberties of individuals.

He takes a unique approach that is only hinted at in the beginnings of the first book – each book deals with a separate character and how they approach the problem of infringed liberties. Brad Fallon is the star of the first book, Ranya Bardiwell occupies the second, and Phil Carson is center stage in the third. Like all good authors he puts them through hell, crushing their plans, seizing their children, and making it impossible to achieve their goals without unusual sacrifice. But they (mostly) come through in the end, or (spoiler alert) at least their offspring do.

The government is always the antagonist, and except for a handful of characters (an FBI Agent in the second book and a set of Army officers in the third) is always up to no good. The books are set in a world of decreasing economic opportunity, and the standard playbook (a.k.a. History) calls for the government to become more oppressive as the opportunities disappear. Bracken writes that part well, but the reader must suspend disbelief and accept that the forces in play are larger than individuals can overcome; that is, the depression that unfolds over the course of the trilogy is too big for the country to withstand intact. I’m not sure I believe the next Depression will be (or currently is*) that large, but I also believe that it could be if we don’t return to a rely-on-yourself mentality in this country. The one thing that could turn a Depression into a country-dividing collapse would be if some regions adopt that mentality to get out of a Depression while others don’t.

But I digress. The switching of lead characters from book to book would be annoying if it weren’t for the fact that each character gets a satisfying conclusion at the end of each work. In this sense it isn’t really a trilogy per se, where the same character or characters appear in all three books, as it is a set of stories told in the same universe. But the technique works to convey not only that government overreach is bad, but that any given atrocity affects more than just one person, and for more than just one story. The government’s actions ripple (or more accurately, cascade) across the series.

The other thing that works to separate each book from the next is the revelation, early in each work, that about five years have passed from one book to the next. This serves to separate the characters in time and space and allows plot lines to develop without having to explain each and every event (lesson two for me: the audience doesn’t need to know every. effing. detail. They assume the character had breakfast, then took a dump).

All in all, it’s a good series, but there are stretches where it feels like he could use an editor. He mostly avoids preaching on the libertarian hot-button topics (free trade and gun control) by demonstrating the issues in a positive light (open markets governed by currencies in gold and the defensive use of guns). This is contrasted against the fruits of government action – whatever they do results in slavery because everything they do is centered on the control of the individual.

I recommend the series, both as an introduction to libertarian fiction and a study of what can happen (or has happened) when governments feel they need to control everything, right down to the people and what they do every day.

* There are many who believe that the last recession never really ended, and that we’re in the early stages of just such a long-term Depression/collapse. I find it increasingly difficult to argue with this point.