ROPER by Mark Thomas McDonough


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A white-hot dystopian novel set in the immediate future.

Prefacing the novel with a devastating screed against the Bush administration and their side of the United States’ debate on torture, McDonough (The Cobalt Blue White Light, 2006, etc.) doesn’t want his readers straining their eyes reading between the lines of this urgent, evocative–and sometimes maddening–sci-fi action allegory. Professor Arthur Chesterfield somehow navigates his way through the broken fascist future as a Ph.D. in Greek literature, opening his first-person narrative with a meditation on his political-science class’s reaction to Homer’s Ulysses. Strange for a professor of Greek to be using Odysseus’ Latin name, but perhaps this transliteration comes from the hyperfascist new Roman territory that is the United States a mere seven years from now. The proximity of the novel’s speculative timeframe is arguably over the top, not nearly far enough to be plausible in the contemporary political climate, and a decade or two buffer would have negotiated the reader’s scepticism more elegantly. But the novel that takes no rhetorical prisoners–until Arthur is arrested for publishing a book called Terrorism Propagated by Mass Media. The charges are perfectly trumped-up, and within hours, Arthur wakes up in a prison and begins receiving some hideously mysterious injections, thus becoming a guinea pig in an experimental search for the ultimate 21st-century biological weapon, the Roper. Pumped-up and optimized Universal Soldier-style, the protagonist becomes Roper 3001 and the bloody harbinger of United States/United Nations (aka “the Combine”) policy. Roper 3001 never quite seems to lose enough soul, but there are enough horrors to compel readers to worry about Arthur’s final fate. It’s a grim future, but there are subtle hopeful hints in the second edition of the Mars Encyclopedia of 2075 interspersed throughout. The novel ends perfectly, and readers will have absorbed the themes of renewal and independence via the protagonist’s odyssey through the Right Wing of the solar system.

A potentially alienating novel that will still stun with its ferocity, hope and apocalyptic augury.

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4343-9728-7
Program: Kirkus Indie
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