In this dark, intricate thriller, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter squaring off against a fascist American government of the near future.
It’s 2033 and the gold bugs have been proven right: too much quantitative easing has produced hyperinflation, the collapse of the American economy and the breakup of the United States into regional successor regimes. The most odious of these is the Federated States, a white supremacist dictatorship in the Old South that relegates blacks, Latinos and Asians to second-class citizenship. After his girlfriend is shot by soldiers during a peaceful protest, Jim Reed, a black lawyer from Atlanta, joins up with a multiracial resistance organization called the Freedom Legion and discovers his knack for masterminding terrorist spectaculars. Hotel bombings and guerrilla attacks provoke more repression; the Federated States initiates an Ultimate Solution to rid its territory of blacks, and Jim and his comrades conceive a monumental strike to decapitate the dictatorship. Wellnitz plays on strands of both left- and right-wing paranoia but manages to make his lurid scenario both believable and exciting. His fictive world has a down-at-the-heels desperation that brings an ugly, all-American racism bubbling to the surface. The well-paced plot regales readers with nerve-wracking action scenes, serpentine intrigues and tense, engrossing procedural as Freedom Legion operatives work out the mechanics of procuring and deploying weapons of mass destruction. Wellnitz’s sharply drawn characters are cool, hardened men and women, but they are also three-dimensional people wracked with misgivings and emotional conflicts. Their world is an intensified but all too familiar version of our own, and we can’t help sympathizing with them even as they undertake the most extreme—even monstrous—measures to wrench it back to sanity.
A riveting techno-thriller with a compelling human drama at its core.