A dystopian novel about the collapse of the American financial superstructure.
Schlaman (Subprime Factor, 2008) begins with a nonfiction note to his readers: a warning about the United States’ national debt that sets the tone for the novel to come. “The growth of the past thirty years has been by the accumulation of debt, across individuals, institutions, and government,” he warns. “Debt cannot expand forever. And debt must be paid back.” When the novel commences, the voices change, but Schlaman’s tone remains consistent. The story is set in a very recognizable 2016, as the governors of the Federal Reserve, meeting in secret in lower Manhattan, float desperate plans to stave off a financial catastrophe that they’ve long seen coming—and that they helped to bring about. Vice Chairman Sarah Hill, the group’s lone idealist, is outraged by her fellow financiers’ blind greed. Chris McCleod, a loutish New York Federal Reserve bank president, joins her in seeing the Fed’s dealings for what they are: “a Ponzi scheme and a gilded pretty lie”: “Simple mathematical equations make it clear that investments, spending, and consumption cannot grow at 7 or 8 percent when the economy grows at 2 percent or less,” he thinks to himself. They’re not the only ones who are angered by what the United States has become: The Russian prime minister and the Chinese president are both determined to strike back at America on the financial battlefield, while a newly elected U.S. president makes promises that may be familiar to followers of libertarian Republican Ron Paul: “Repeal the Affordable Care Act. Audit the Federal Reserve. Return this country to the gold standard. Bulldoze the bureaucracy.” Schlaman carefully sets all these pieces in place, and then ably moves his plot briskly through financial collapse, natural catastrophe, the rise of a mega-church, and the desperate survival of a few innocents when the structure of society fractures. Readers may find this sort of dystopian material fairly familiar, but the author’s unflagging storytelling enthusiasm saves it from ever feeling derivative.
A passionate novel that warns of a coming economic apocalypse.