Verdict: FAB is a creative, well-written novel that takes a political speculation and makes an immensely clever puzzle out of it.
In an alternate history, John Lennon enters politics after his assassination is thwarted, leading to unexpected consequences.
In our world, John Lennon was shot by Mark Chapman on December 8, 1980. In the world of FAB, Lennon is rescued by an alcoholic named Murphy Salmon, who blunders into Chapman at the crucial moment. Salmon becomes Lennon’s personal assistant, and is present as he suffers career setbacks, failing to make the successful leap into movie stardom for which he was hoping. Frustrated, Lennon goes into American politics, as a conservative Republican- until unexpected developments threaten his career again.
FAB is an intriguing look at a possible alternate history, that takes the assertions of Fred Seaman, Lennon’s personal assistant, about Lennon’s sympathy for Reagan and arguments with an old-school Communist, to a new level. The book is well-written, and the suspense is carefully built up until the final, startling climax. The alternation between straight narration and Salmon’s interview, done after the events of the book are over, helps to set up the dramatic tension, weaving out the thread of the story and leaving subtle clues here and there that are quite likely to be missed until the ending reveals their importance. However, the book relies a bit too much on the assertions of one former employee of dubious credibility – Seaman was convicted of stealing some of Lennon’s personal possessions after his death — to establish Lennon’s supposedly-conservative politics. This ignores other actions in his final year – giving vocal public support to striking workers, and advocating apolitical, individual work towards a better world – that point in other directions. An alternate history must stay reasonably close to the personalities of the characters it portrays, and this book’s ruthless, politically ambitious, war-mongering Lennon doesn’t quite fit reality.
FAB is a creative, well-written novel that takes a political speculation and makes an immensely clever puzzle out of it.