A leisurely satire of U.S. politics in the 22nd century that’s sometimes eerily plausible.

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President Citizenfarm

THE USA IN 2116

Citizens of a future America covertly formulate a rebellion against wealthy, totalitarian leaders in Bollington’s (Mechanic of Fortune, 2012, etc.) dystopian novel.

By 2116, the United States is a shadow of its former self. After a third world war left the country in ruins in 2023, the ruling class, the Oligarchy, re-established the nation as President Citizenfarm, or PCF. Later, in the 2040s, the Domenicon Region, consisting of rebels clutching onto the final remnants of the old America, opposed PCF and sparked a second Civil War. Some still live in Domenicon, a heavily forested area confined and constantly monitored by PCF’s security. But Security Director Jacob Stahzi suspects resistance to the Presidential Cabinet’s authority, namely Jackson Deepcliff. Deepcliff’s an Oligarch (and probable Presidential Cabinet member) but surrounded by “irregularities,” including occasional visits to Domenicon. Stahzi sends newly hired Sebastian Barnes and Vironika Ku to spy on Deepcliff as his employees. Meanwhile, someone’s circulating comic books—actually manifestos in disguise alluding to infamous rebel leader Carlos Shadrist. The comic books are cropping up in baseball stadiums, now-empty museums since the PCF’s attempt to change baseball rules and optimize profitability led to fan outcry and the sport being outlawed. Security Forces eventually arrest and interrogate Deepcliff, whose link to Shadrist could very well get him a “dose of EE” (Early Extermination). The story certainly has its somber moments. EE, for one, is only sometimes a punishment; it’s more often decided by lottery and considered a heroic sacrifice. But a favorite pastime signifying the citizens’ would-be uprising lightens the tone: people even live—and plan to stage the rebellion—at stadiums. There are unmistakable shades of Nineteen Eighty-Four, particularly Sebastian’s writing gig revising history text with “the Olgar airbrush.” The tale shines with characters and playfully ironic subplots; poor sardonically named Gen. Hector LeMayhem’s likely afflicted with Empathy Obsession Disorder. A gradual buildup to a potential rebellion begets an ending that, while satisfying, leaves a few things vague. When Narsilan, for example, a drug rendering the user susceptible to commands, moves from concept to application, the result is unsettling but not fully realized. But maybe that lingering feeling of unease is Bollington’s intention.

A leisurely satire of U.S. politics in the 22nd century that’s sometimes eerily plausible.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5151-6310-7

Page Count: 474

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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