Brownstein’s debut science-fiction novel is a near-future thriller set in an environmentally ravaged and newly independent Florida where the largely technophobic population is bitterly divided over the utilization of robots in society.
The year is 2130—an election year—and the Republic of Florida is a political powder keg. Members of the Futurist Party, who collectively advocate a “robot-infused society,” are trying to get their mayoral candidate, charismatic M. Forrest Newcomb, elected to office. But the opposition is everywhere, virtually ingrained in a largely ignorant, prejudiced and paranoid populace. Gangs of drunken vigilantes roam the streets terrorizing anyone they deem suspicious. Idealistic robotic-engineer Cesar Komenen knows firsthand the benefits of living in a society that embraces technology—his cyber implants compensate for eyes damaged in his youth. Komenen deeply believes in the Futurist Party’s philosophy, and wants nothing more than to live a peaceful and technologically improved existence in Lake Worth with his girlfriend Jewel, who works as dispatcher at a “macroshrimp” and oyster farm. But as Election Day looms, Komenen inadvertently becomes a conspirator in a mind-bogglingly elaborate and far-reaching scheme that includes mass brainwashing, murder and political manipulation of the highest order. While the themes examined aren’t exactly new—Asimov’s I, Robot; Levin’s Stepford Wives; etc.—Brownstein’s vividly detailed descriptions of a planet plagued by global warming are intriguing. His detailed account of the events that led to a fractured United States is simultaneously insightful and provocative. (“The breakup of the USA is a symptom of our distrust of the past.”) Additionally, the novel is complemented by a handful of stylish illustrations by artist Jon Sideriadis.
Powered by a briskly paced and tightly woven storyline, Brownstein’s tale is a relentlessly entertaining amalgam of science-fiction mystery and dystopic thriller, with a healthy dose of satire and social commentary thrown in for good measure.