... an outrageously funny novel equal to the absurdity roiling Washington ... There’s much to choose from here, but perhaps the funniest aspect of Make Russia Great Again is how calmly Herb conveys the craziness of the Trump administration. With the unruffled decorum of a five-star resort manager, he describes all the complicated maneuvers needed to entertain a president who does not read, who cannot concentrate for more than a few minutes and who will not listen to anything but soliloquies comparing him to 'Napoleon, or God' ... There’s a Twain-like quality to this loyal naif who skewers without intending to. While Make Russia Great Again rushes along from one folly to the next, Herb’s increasingly pained efforts to see only the bright side of Trump’s reign is the joke that keeps on winning. Amid the twin economic and health catastrophes of our era, Buckley has done the impossible: Made Politics Funny Again. Laughter may not be the best medicine for covid-19, but it’s a heck of a lot better than bleach.
Christopher Buckley is at his side-splitting funniest in Make Russia Great Again, which includes lines of such pure comedic brilliance that the reader is tempted to stand and applaud like one would for a soloist at the Kennedy Center. This is what Jonathan Swift envisioned when he introduced the world to political satire ... Some might argue that satirizing this presidency is too easy. Any dime-store scribe would be equal to the challenge, but in reading Make Russia Great Again, one realizes that Buckley’s task is complicated by today’s continued lowering of expectations and standards of decency ... Once upon a time, Christopher Buckley became so disillusioned with the machinations of government that he vowed never to write another political satire. That pledge lasted nearly 35 years. Fortunately for us, he has finally stared into the abyss, plunged headfirst back into the immoral morass, and managed to Make Satire Great Again!
... funny and often hilarious ... To regular viewers of the all-breaking-news-all-the-time networks, Make Russia Great Again reads like a whispered procedural of everyday life in the 2020 White House ... Buckley takes us on a fictional roller-coaster ride of blackmail, intrigue, more blackmail and way more intrigue that rivals reality, well almost, at least at press time. And this was written before the pandemic and before the George Floyd Black Lives Matter protests. There are no masks, no marches, no TikTok-inflated rallies, [no fill-in-the-blank insanities that were not known at press time]. Their absence actually gives Make Russia Great Again an almost nostalgic appeal ... But plenty of meat is left on the carcass of the Executive Branch for Buckley to feast on. While the plot plays out, he gives some of the most brilliantly funny characterizations. In a few words he can size up, cut down and serve up slightly roasted thumbnail descriptions of people who may or may not represent purveyors of the White House Kool-Aid.
Buckley’s Trump is sufficiently churlish and childish, but the novel is stranded between White House reflection and funhouse mirror. Some names are changed comically (Sean Hannity becomes Seamus Colonnity), some altered arbitrarily (Jored/Ivunka), others left intact (Rudy Giuliani) ... As the threat of extortion mounts and the president’s petulance rises to meet it, Buckley resorts to a deus ex machina and then a dense expositional epilogue ... Are there pleasures? Of course. Buckley is intelligent and ingenious and at times pitch-perfect...But more punches are thrown than landed.
... may well stimulate some Never Trumpers to laugh with tears in their eyes ... Mr. Buckley’s claim that politics has become self-satirizing has never been more true than it is now. Make Russia Great Again relies all too often on references lifted from the headlines, well-known character flaws, and stereotypes ... Satire, of course, is not always subtle. But as Christopher Buckley preaches to the choir, Make Russia Great Again may leave readers laughing self-righteously but not better informed, enlightened, or challenged. And a fair number of Never Trumpers may apply the motto Mr. Buckley invents for the Democrats as their campaign theme to his book: 'Come On…We Are So Much Better Than This!'
Buckley sets aside historical farce to return to his mainstay, cutting-edge political satire, with this rambunctious roman à clef in the form of a memoir written in federal prison by President Trump’s seventh chief of staff ... As Buckley orchestrates Nutterman’s rapid rise and fall, he skewers key figures in the criminally dysfunctional Trump World with such characters as Seamus Colonnity at Fox News, spokesperson Katie Borgia-O’Reilly, and Senator Squigg Lee Biskitt. Buckley’s keenly informed, caustically ironic, and cheerfully raunchy comedy is both rollicking and hard-hitting in its outrage, a bold indictment perfectly targeted for this intensely polarized election year even though that battle is overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though President Trump seems to have driven America mad, even his supporters, Buckley has kept his head and his sense of humour. He has found that the best way to deal with the dysfunction and distemper of the Trump years is to turn the president into a comic character for his new novel. The verdict? Trump makes great copy in fact or fiction ... It’s all good fun at the expense of America, although I cannot claim to have been reduced to tears of laughter. There are some misfires, but there are also some fine jokes ... Wisely, Buckley has played this novel for laughs rather than trying to make satirical points. Satire cannot compete with the outlandish reality of the Trump years.
As these narrative lines get tangled in various ways, Buckley, a former White House speechwriter, adds comic spin to recent events, providing a plausible view of the crude, jury-rigged, stopgap daily carnival that is No. 45 at work. The author can be witty and clever but also sophomoric and sexist ... Buckley is a smart, entertaining observer, but the weak spots in his humor can leave a reader wincing.