Fleming’s (Bride of a Bygone War, 2013, etc.) dystopian thriller follows a former businessman turned labor-camp prisoner who gets more than he bargained for when he joins up with a group of anti-establishment rebels.
In 2024, America is controlled by the totalitarian Unionist Party, which rose to power in 2016 after winning the presidency and both houses of Congress. At that time, businessman Paul Wagner chose to stay in Sewickley, Pa., while his neighbors, the Moores, fled to Canada soon after the Unionist takeover. Eight years later, Paul has been transported to Kamas, a Utah-based labor camp for enemies of the state; like Paul, many of the prisoners have been charged with conspiracy. He doesn’t know it, but his daughter Claire has come to Utah looking for him. The narrative bounces between Paul’s and Claire’s points of view, and events between 2016 and 2024. The author skillfully weaves a vivid picture of how today’s world could become a cruel dystopia, and he has a strong, cinematic style, full of moments of dramatic irony and shocking revelation. For example, soon after arriving at Kamas, Paul witnesses an old woman and a young girl sneaking bread to some of his fellow prisoners before the guards set dogs on them. Later, the same events are shown again, from Claire’s point of view, and neither she nor Paul realize how close they came to seeing each other. Readers will likely recognize a Nineteen Eighty-Four influence, but Fleming’s labor-camp setting also brings to mind Holocaust literature; as in many examples of that genre, Paul is forced to choose between his principles and what might be his last hope of reuniting his family.
An intense, brutal portrait of a dystopian American future.