Azaleas Don't Bloom Here by Frank Klus

Azaleas Don't Bloom Here

A Dystopian Novel
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KIRKUS REVIEW

In Klus’ (Take the Pilgrim Road, 2013) sci-fi sequel, a businessman finds himself embroiled in a revolutionary conspiracy in a nightmarish future America, where powerful corporate interests and gangsterlike cops dominate the government.

In the downsized North America of 2065, after a period of virtual civil war, the federal authority is going broke and a corporate-dominated, fascist/capitalist lobby called NOGOV has reduced society to feudal terms. Chicago is a vast, semi-anarchic urban ruin, filled with homeless people and junkies (legal drugs and prostitution are proven moneymakers), while ultra-rich citizens dwell in a gated community called the Fortress. A patchwork of police-militias, composed of laid-off military men and mercenaries with varying degrees of loyalty, sadism, and psychosis, maintain a semblance of law and order in “Old America.” Eugene Sulke, a member of the remaining upper middle class, is an accountant from an influential family who’s apolitical, although he maintains a friendship with a Howard Zinn–like professor. Sulke is suddenly caught between the “Lightning Squad,” an elite police force rapidly degrading into a bunch of warlord-gangsters, and a violent, resourceful group of disillusioned ex-police officers and commandos seeking to radicalize him. After a brush with secret, government-sanctioned torture, he takes a fugitive route to “New America,” a supposed West Coast haven, run on the co-op model, that’s enduring a media blackout and trade embargo. The novel’s sometimes-creaky plot mechanics require more than a little suspension of disbelief: formerly toadying journalists suddenly deliver scoops damaging to the oligarchs; brainwashed neoconservatives recover their memories and transform into freedom fighters; and secret letters and top-secret messages conveniently surface. The pallid Sulke seems an unlikely protagonist for readers to make a fuss over, and one might argue that a satire, rather than a serious action-thriller, would have been a better vehicle for putting across a depraved American society where free-market Mafia and gun-nut AM radio talkers have their way. That said, the narrative should still engage readers who think that Occupy Wall Street has a point, as it offers a vicarious visit to a RoboCop-like plutocracy collapsing from its own socioeconomic rottenness.

Michael Moore meets Nineteen Eighty-Four in this pulpy action-thriller, which explores the pathologies of rampant capitalist greed and corruption.

Pub Date: June 6th, 2016
Page count: 363pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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