An over-the-top attempt at political satire.

THUMPERICA!

A NOVEL OF THE GHOST OF AMERICA FUTURE

A futuristic farce explores the dystopian nightmare that results from one man’s ascendancy to the Oval Office. 

In the late 22nd century, the whole world has been thoroughly transformed by the poisonous legacy of the presidential tenure of Ronald Thump—the transformation of Donald Trump’s name for satirical purposes in Mullins’ debut novel. As the United States economy crumbles, the rest of the globe embraces “corporate imperialism,” nationalism, and totalitarianism on an unprecedented scale. Midway through his first term, Thump voluntarily resigns from office. But his control over the country remains, as his own company, ThumpCorp, becomes the new president, and its CEO, Thump’s 15-year-old son, Viscount, acts essentially as the nation’s ruler. ThumpCorp eventually declares itself “President-in-Perpetuity,” completing the metamorphosis of the nation into a racist, religiously intolerant surveillance state. The author presents a few interlocking stories. Shari Aronson is forced to work for Thump-O-Vision, the state-run television propaganda network, and is subjected to the chauvinistic tyranny of her supervisor, Mr. Feacle. (He claims it’s a French name properly pronounced “Feely.”) Exasperated by his despotism, she becomes embroiled in a mini-insurrection by four women, who kidnap Mr. Feacle and flee into the “labyrinth of sewers and tunnels far below the city.” There, Shari is assisted by Hubert Dillerschlinger, who works for the ACRONIM office—contributing to the totalitarian manipulation of language—but also heads an ineffectual resistance movement. Meanwhile, Paul Generosity, a pastor, while on a diplomatic mission abroad, discovers an unredacted copy of the Bible and learns how disfigured his understanding of Christianity is. In his wide-ranging and timely book, the author has no shortage of literary ambition. He seems to aim for something that combines the frenetic comedic delivery reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut with the sociopolitical commentary of Jonathan Swift. Unfortunately, Mullins often lands on far more pedestrian ground, closer to a vaudeville routine. Holding a gun, Shari frets: “Okay, that is probably where the bullets come out of, and this should be the trigger, but the bullets should be in the handle, shouldn’t they? She turned it around and looked at it from the barrel end. No, the bullets are right there, in that wheely-thing.” In other words, the humor is slapstick—relentlessly jocose and silly—but seldom clever or original. In addition, the novel is riddled with acronyms (some translated, many not) and heavily footnoted, so what should be a breezily unchallenging read takes quasi-scholarly labor to muddle through. Yet the most disappointing aspect of the work is its absence of nuance in the political commentary. As a consequence of Thump’s historically gruesome rule, everything that is bad happens and everything that is good ceases. Add in a host of puns and game wordplay and the result is this book’s literary worldview. Readers can be appalled by Trump’s presidential behavior and still hope for more out of the literature that takes him to task for it. 

An over-the-top attempt at political satire.

Pub Date: May 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72051-824-2

Page Count: 296

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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