Luce’s zany, near-future adventure (Chasing Davis, 2012).
The year is 2017, and the United States is in turmoil. After a devastating terrorist attack on San Diego, the country devolves into civil war. Various rebel forces form, and the government has passed the Espionage Act, allowing for all kinds of powers that reach beyond the Constitution. At the helm of this tumultuous nation is President Meryl Montessori. Though Washington, D.C., is one of the more stable places in America, Montessori wakes up one morning to find her female lover dead. The president assembles a team of sorts to make sense of the impossible murder, sending them down a bizarre path that leads everywhere from the war zones of America to the gravesite of George Orwell. As the plot progresses, it drifts ever further from the initial murder and into more abstract realms, such as the fragile nature of human history and the universe itself. Fortunately, the president’s confidants are prepared. Team members range from the stovepipe-hat wearing science advisor Dr. Frank N. Stein to the beautiful NYPD Officer Rachel Rothberg, who, though a savvy and daring police officer, can never bring herself to lie to her mother. This wacky cast of characters only gets wackier as they try to sort out a series of clues and survive various active hostilities around the world. Though the humor of this zany gang greatly depends on the reader’s tolerance for puns and other simple word play, the team also has its sophisticated moments. Allusions to Kazimierz Pulaski, Emperor Haile Selassie, and others provide a welcome infusion of world history, however, these references show the heroes may too easily outwit villains who can’t think beyond racial slurs and coarse grammar. One main scoundrel, for example, is apparently so dumb it took him six years to graduate from the University of Tennessee. If this is the best the world can put against them, how can Montessori’s team fail?
Frequently silly and violent though occasionally insightful, the plot can be difficult to follow though by no means impossible. Rooting for characters who, for instance, respond to an “air-head” driver by saying “Yah…and she’s obviously got air-brakes too” proves much more difficult.