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In a rather heavy-handed satire of American life and politics, Murphy (The Finished Man, 2004) envisions a dystopian US that’s operated by corporations as a profit-making venture.

Buddy LeBlanc grew up in the Louisiana bayou in a little diner run by his mother, Polly. He never knew his father and was always a solitary and somewhat melancholy boy, but at an early age he discovered that he had a gift for working minor miracles (e.g., making change, etc.). Eventually, Buddy grows up just enough to run off and join the circus, where he finds acceptance among the tightrope walkers and lion tamers who are just as estranged from the normal world as he is. America is going through some odd developments at the moment, and fitting in has become a pretty tall order: Under the leadership of President Spud Thompson, the US has been renamed the AC (America Corporation), and the entire populace is being mobilized to bring about a more efficient and productive society. Subsidiary corporations have been awarded large parts of the economy (like Polly’s New American Diner, now owned by the What-A-Weenie Company), and retirees are being organized into a national system of domestic workers (the In-Dentured Servants) in order to empty the old-age homes and provide cheap household help for government employees. There are protests, of course, but they’re mostly the work of odd, antisocial types like intellectuals and circus performers. Thus Buddy comes into contact with Rhonda Jefferson, a reporter for The Strolling Bone, who is trying to expose the venality and duplicity of America Corp. A controversial plan to flood the Grand Canyon may be the corporation’s fatal misstep. Can Rhonda and Buddy help mobilize the masses in time?

About as subtle as Michael Moore, but not nearly as funny: wears thin very quickly.

Pub Date: Dec. 28th, 2004
ISBN: 0-553-38245-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Delta
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2004