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

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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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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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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