The Take-Us by John Raymond Takacs

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MWSA Review

Vietnam vet John Christenson is fed up with the price of gasoline. He has invented an electric car that not only doesn't need to refuel, but generates more energy as it's driven.  Obviously, this isn't something that pleases our enemies in the oil producing countries.  John and FOX newswoman Leena Delaney drive the car, known as a "Take-Us," from New York City to San Francisco to show that the vehicle can do what Christenson claims.  Terrorist cells, hidden in plain sight for years, are sent to stop the Take-Us and its inventor from achieving their destinies.
This book is one of those little gems that pop up from time to time.  It's clever and entertaining and thought-provoking.  It's based on that time-honored writer's device -- "What if?"  What if there was a car that didn't need to be refueled -- ever?  What if it was so efficient that you could use it to provide electricity for your home?  What if it was available to everyone -- around the world?  What if there was a man so honorable and inventive that he could find a way to make all of that possible?  How would that change us?  Would we relate to each other differently if we weren't forced to compete for scarce resources?
The author never really explains the details of how the Take-Us works -- but he gives enough hints to make the device seem plausible.  He surrounds the protagonist with oodles of Americana goodness and evil but inept bad guys of the radical middle-eastern variety -- that's what makes this romp read like a geeky-batman adventure.  You just KNOW that things are going to turn out okay and you get a kick out of how the hero gets himself into and out of trouble along the way.  In the end, like a great Hitchcock flick, all the pieces come together like a jig-saw puzzle of the good old U.S of A.
After all of that fun stuff, it's important to point out that this book has a provocative philosophical underpinning.  On the one hand, Takacs explores the innate goodness of human beings -- working together to solve common problems, reaching out to each other for support and comfort. Christenson's name is no accident. The tale is a re-telling of an older truth -- talent brings with it responsibility, ability requires action on behalf of those without it.  One must love in order to know how to love.  On the other hand, the author replays the old battle between good and evil -- which of course, depends on the most primeval issues of all.   
This is a book that just about anyone would enjoy.  It's filled with enough BAM/POW/THWOP action to appeal to the teenage boy lingering in our souls.  It would take all the Scrabble pieces to name the government agencies involved.  There are spies and lies and secrets galore.  There's danger lurking and love not quite made.  It's got a moral perspective that is intriguing enough for a Sunday School sermon -- and for us nerds, there's enough technical machinations to channel our inner Ben Franklin.

Reviewed by: Joyce Faulkner (2009)

Author's Synopsis

Vietnam Veteran John Christenson modifies an automobile so that it can run without gasoline, instead it generates its own motive power as it travels down the highway. His invention could quickly and profoundly change the worlds power structure by ending America's enslavement to oil. 
Christenson's plan developed with the help of a beautiful female TV reporter, (who complicates things by falling in love with him) is to drive the car from New York City to San Francisco without using any gas and broadcast the road trip live on national television.
The plan is simple but difficult to finish in a world where the value of life is computed by the cost of a barrel of oil. With danger threating from all sides, including the ghosts buried deep within, they must fight every mile to survive.