Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new six-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Before his retirement in 2016, Dr. Britton taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Learn more about Dr. Britton at his WEBSITE
Author: Preston Fleming
Author: Preston Fleming
The year is 2024. The U.S.
has been taken over by the Unionist Party who’ve created a
totalitarian dystopia. In order to control their “one class”
society, the Unionist have fought wars with China, Canada, and Mexico
and placed brutal restrictions on American citizens. It’s a crime
to want to emigrate, to refuse the most minor of requests from
government officials, to complain, in short, to take any action that
can be construed as disruptive to the good of the state.
In the years before this takeover, Paul Wagner owned a small vitamin factory who hopes he’ll be able to withstand the economic downfall crippling U.S. industry. However, when he loses everything and tries to emigrate to England with his wife and two daughters, he’s tossed into a harsh labor camp for treason. There, he doesn’t know the fate of his family and discovers he’s but one of many innocent “politicos” in a prison from which death is the only apparent release.
Author Preston Fleming
develops the story of the Wagners with two paralleled plots. In one,
Paul Wagner quickly learns about the tortures of his new living
conditions in overcrowded barracks with minimal rations and no
comforts, endures hard days working on recycling projects, and
observes the wariness of the inmates towards both their bosses and
the informers in their midst. Wagner is slowly drawn into prisoner
revolts that are first short, futile strikes to seek better
conditions before the bloody 40 day rebellion that few expect to
survive. At the same time, 12 year old Claire Wagner, also unaware of
where the rest of her family has been taken, becomes a servant in the
home of the camp’s Deputy Warden. Through these two perspectives,
we learn about the tensions heating up in the summer of 2024 and how,
ultimately, the paths of the Wagners may cross again.
Inspired by the writings
of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Preston Fleming masterfully paints his
grim landscape with believable detail and vivid characters, even if
most of the supporting players’ back-stories are thinly sketched.
Then again, inmates, warders, and government officials alike are
familiar types who are either already de-humanized or are resisting
the forces that would crush their human spirit. Whether former
veterans of the military or a college student who simply refused to
rake leaves for a school administrator, the inmates are told they are
now mere numbers who share common fates. What matters is the present.
Some will find inner resourcefulness, intelligence, courage, and
fortitude to reclaim but a moment of their lost freedoms. Others will
succumb to broken bodies, despair, suicide, thuggery, bureaucratic
indifference. Largely told in the first person, an omniscient view
isn’t really necessary. We’re told little about how the Unionist
Party came to power and how they operate, but we get enough
information to show what they want and believe. To nail his themes
down, each of Fleming’s chapters open with a quote from one of
history’s most notorious dictators or observant writers to
demonstrate—all of this has happened before.
Is this novel a warning? Perhaps not in the specifics, but it’s hard not to put this book down and ponder. Could it happen here? Perhaps the real question is—why couldn’t it?
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