In first-time author Dinoto’s futuristic thriller, an investigative reporter uncovers a dangerous conspiracy as America reels in the wake of a catastrophic oil shortage.
In 2030, huge earthquakes in the Middle East have destroyed the region’s oil supply. Four years later, with gas at $90,000 a gallon on the black market, martial law has been declared in the United States. Mexican rebels take to blowing up American oil wells and, under the leadership of a new and ambitious general, they’re heading north. As a result, federal overseers from the nation’s new Oil Appropriation Committee run border cities like San Diego with an iron fist. Meanwhile, southern oil-producing states are unhappy with the idea of keeping their Yankee neighbors warm for another winter. Details from this oil-starved future are vivid: blackouts, a new rickshaw culture, life in southern California minus air conditioning. Thus is the perilous state of the nation when investigative reporter Brick Sanders heads off on assignment, with photographer Tyra McCord, to check out the latest blown-up gas depot. But government reports are out of sync with what Brick observes on the ground, and his sources paint an even bleaker picture. When he’s not busy chasing Tyra—and several other paramours—Brick uncovers the real story and is faced with a life-altering decision. Dinoto’s brisk, well-paced thriller builds to a satisfying action-filled conclusion. The political scenes introduce several intriguing players, who provide tension-building complications. The book’s sexual politics, however, may as well be set in 1974, not 2034. Many female characters are assessed for sexual appeal, and several incidents pander to male sexual fantasies: On a work assignment, Tyra wears a blouse “with a lacy neckline that plunged to her waist exposing the bare flesh between her braless breasts.” Readers may find it hard to believe that, by 2034, men and women are still discussing who should open the door for whom. Technology, too, could use an update: If contemporary newsrooms don’t rely on darkrooms to develop film, it is unlikely future generations would revert to antiquated methods. A careful edit could have eliminated frequent grammatical errors and chronic misspellings, such as “comon” for “come on” or even “c’mon.” Readers may also find the dialogue structured and punctuated in such a way as to be distracting.
A leering, immature hero mars this well-paced thriller.