Two adult friends set out to exact revenge on their former school in Swift’s (Big Pox, 2004) dark political satire.
At age 63, Utley Ewesless works as the Permanent Secretary of the Treasury House of Frustratia. After ruminating over his unfulfilled life since his unhappy time at school, where he was often bullied, he decides to contact his former close childhood friend Liam Sean Augustus Fitzshitz, the Assistant Secretary of Defence. Fitzy soon agrees that they should seek vengeance on their alma maters, Happy Manor and The Big School, which are both run by abusive, perverse holy men—Men of God of the Roaming Maverick Church. Utley and Fitzy take great pains to plan their attack on the school grounds; they create a fake retreat, advertising a visit from “the Pop” and only invite the classmates that bullied them. They then stage a fake terrorist attack nearby, and Fitzy’s connections allow for three separate foreign powers (the Janks, the Is-Reallys and the Rooskies) to converge on the school, all unbeknownst to one another. However, Utley and Fitzy’s plans, and Frustratia itself, are soon thrown into chaos. The novel relies heavily on sophomoric puns to elicit laughs, using them for every country name and government title. Although this is charming at times, especially when characters’ names inform their personalities, it eventually becomes tiresome. There’s very little character development overall, and the third-person omniscient narration makes for distanced, impersonal storytelling. The revenge-fantasy plans lack tension, as there are few hints that anyone will ever be punished for them. When a power reversal occurs near the end of the story, readers may find that the intended irony of the phrase “the more things change, the more they are indeed the same” feels too easy. That said, readers interested in political humor and detailed logistical planning will likely enjoy this book.
An attempt at clever commentary on the nature of political systems and ideologies that’s light on storytelling and heavy on puns.