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An innocent man accused of treason is hunted through an America ruled by a military junta in this grim, skillful futuristic thriller from the author of Covenant at Coldwater (1984). Sometime in the future, seven years after the US and Russia have fought a conventional war to a crippling draw, an ex-GI named Thomas Rankin is working as a night watchman in a barge depot on the banks of the Mississippi in Memphis, Tennessee. Like most Americans, his life is bleak: years before, the military had taken over the government in order to ensure the continuance of the war, and there remains rampant unemployment, gas rationing, and severe food shortages. Anyone who protests these conditions is automatically declared an enemy of the state and hunted down by the Sepos (Security Police) or by civilian bounty hunters. One night, Rankin spots one of these fugitives during his rounds--a sick, shivering schoolteacher whose only crime was to have posted up copies of the long-forgotten Bill of Rights. Moved by some vague pity, Rankin attempts to help him escape; the man is gunned down by the Sepos, and Rankin, as an accessory, is now an enemy of the state himself. What follows combines the existential paranoia of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? with the manhunt tension of Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male. Rankin flees south along the icy Mississippi through bleak winter swamps and dreary, deserted towns, fighting off attacks by starving steely-eyed bounty hunters and drunken pool-hall yokels. Months later, more an animal than a man, he arrives in an unnamed town to find a surreal scene of violence--the Sepos have broken up a peaceful food demonstration and are pursuing and killing the protesters. Taking heart from this glimmer of organized rebellion, Rankin throws away his chances of escaping, and turns to face his adversaries in a hopeless last stand. In sum: a forceful, extremely believable thriller without an ounce of flab.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1986
Publisher: St. Luke's Press