In Tadros’ (The War of the Words, 2013, etc.) terrifying future tale, one man resists the total control of the state in a last-ditch attempt to save a world in disarray.
It’s the 23rd century, and the Occidental Union controls the world. Its rulers have successfully brainwashed a poor, blindly dependent public into supporting its supposedly collectivist politic. However, despite its power, the state fails to meet even the basic needs of its population. One man tells of his own personal rebellion as the Occidental Union tries to keep power in an increasingly chaotic world. The disillusioned narrator is inspired by his visits to the idyllic Free Islands, which are home to the last strongholds of the Coptic Orthodox Christian community. With his dog, Anup, he braves disorder, disease and countless adversaries in an attempt to discover the truth behind the state’s secret plan, the aptly named Project United We Fall. As in all dystopian stories, the slow elaboration of the speculative setting is the main thrill here. Tadros’ academic vocabulary and tendency toward explanation lend themselves to such a book, which is ultimately a cautionary tale—a worst-case scenario for an unchecked welfare state and a perverted rhetoric of social justice. Indeed, the old-school liberal philosophy underpinning the book is fairly explicit: Tadros writes that the Union’s ideology of “Scientism–Collectivism searches for the one grand theory to unify everything and everyone. It is the final assault against the individual and individual experience in the pursuit of Enlightenment-driven progress.” Such clear political tensions, featuring obvious “good” and “bad” guys, frequently drown potentially lively action scenes in extended reflections on the merits of individual rights, as exemplified by other thinkers, such as Aldous Huxley and Thomas Hobbes. Even though many readers may agree with these principles, the book’s bold emphasis on them often works against the story.
A sometimes-exciting but ultimately meandering portrait of a society gone horribly wrong.