In the midst of a slow apocalypse, a defiant young organizer takes up arms against her local government and empowers her community to take care of itself.
This second novel by Parzybok (Couch, 2008) employs a thoughtful—and surprisingly realistic—approach to offering commentary on separatist movements. We open in a near-future Portland, Oregon, where a long drought has emptied the Columbia River and left the city cut off from America. Far from descending into a Mad Max frenzy of mutants and violence, the city continues much as it was, with bookstores and coffee shops and local politics holding sway over its citizens. But there’s just not enough water to go around. It makes quite a stir when young barista Renee Gorski pulls off the brazen heist of a government water truck. Assuring her boyfriend, Zach, that things won’t get out of hand, she adopts the moniker the press bestows upon her: Maid Marian. Together with her “Green Rangers,” she carves out a block of neighborhoods with about 50,000 citizens and declares “Sherwood Nation” to be a sovereign state. The mechanics of the coup are interesting, and while there are some nods to Occupy and other protests against inequality—“A system that criminalizes a whistleblower is wanting in introspection,” Renee tells a reporter—Parzybok takes a rational and well-measured approach to depicting a community uprising. While Renee makes progress, she’s also forced to compromise quite often, as when she hires a local drug dealer as sheriff of their little country. If there’s a villain, it’s probably the conflicted, closeted gay mayor of Portland, Brandon Bartlett, but he's really a figurehead who would rather be playing video games. She’s not so much fighting “The Man” as much as the system he represents.
Keeping Portland weird with a well-written tale of an American insurgency.