A mild-mannered federal functionary battles a fascist takeover in this boisterous satirical thriller.
Chris Thompson, a low-level U.S. Customs official, is shocked when he’s summoned out of the blue to the White House, where the president, a nitwit who plays arcade games in the Oval Office, and the Cheney-esque chief of staff tell him the country is facing a stealth invasion of illegal immigrants from Mexico and Canada. Free-associative plot twists soon shove Chris out of a crashing airplane and into Emergence, a strange bunker compound located beneath a Nevada strip joint. There, he discovers a cult of young men who worship the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy as a prophet and believe they will enter a deathless utopia after completing their service in a torture- and murder-for-hire scheme. Chris escapes Emergence but finds that its xenophobic, anti-communist dogmas have taken over America and resulted in a dictatorship complete with loyalty oaths to the McCarthyite Big Mac Party. Lundy’s frenetic picaresque bundles Chris and his pickup team of oddball sidekicks—lady ninja, Cherokee warrior, horny computer geek—from sorority party to detention camp to helicopter gunship without worrying too much about plausibility or consistency of tone. Chris imagines himself a James Bond–ian action hero, but he’s more a Candide-like sad sack whose initiatives usually fizzle; he needs one deus ex machina after another to pluck him out of scrapes. Revolving around a cautionary tale about a luridly caricatured right-wing agenda and a creeping national-security state, the novel’s politics are a bit cartoonish, as the republic meekly submits to authoritarian rule just because a politician dictates it on TV. Still, Lundy is a talented writer who crafts vivid characters, keeps the overcomplicated story moving at a brisk pace and serves up vigorous prose with punchy dialogue. Fortunately, he supplies enough tongue-in-cheek farce to balance the ideological dudgeon.
An entertaining if over-the-top saga of demagoguery run amok.