Hiestand’s debut sci-fi novel is a disturbingly plausible vision of a future America in economic and political upheaval—and a satirical gem reminiscent of the work of Philip K. Dick.
In a near-future Los Angeles plagued by a worsening recession, Everyman Zeno Jacobs is the newly appointed personnel director at HRW International, a bizarrely bureaucratic corporation that, due to a tax-credit loophole, essentially hires and fires employees for profit. The skyrocketing cost of living makes it increasingly difficult for many people to live, so it comes as no surprise when the Hundred Days Riots begin. Unruly mobs loot grocery stores, burn down banks and raze entire neighborhoods. Jacobs and his love interest, Shasta MacCalistaire, watch the proceedings from the relative safety of the HRW building as Los Angeles plunges into bloody chaos. Even after the Army establishes martial law, no one in the city is safe. Adept readers will find thematic depths in the novel’s more striking imagery; for example, the HRW building’s deadly labyrinth, where a deliveryman got lost and died, effectively symbolizes the unfathomable complexity of corporatocracy, as well as the difficulties that normal people have navigating a normal workday. (The paintings on the labyrinth’s walls offer up additional profundities.) At the same time, the cleverly constructed narrative is briskly paced and utterly readable. Like the best Philip K. Dick tales, the story works on multiple levels simultaneously—as a breathtakingly bleak vision of the future, a cautionary tale replete with social commentary, and, above all, an unlikely and unforgettable love story.
A timely, and timeless, satirical novel.