Wednesday, July 29, 2020

99. And the Last Trump Shall Sound

And the Last Trump Shall Sound. Harry Turtledove. James Morrow. Cat Rambo. 2020. 248 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence of The Breaking of Nations by Harry Turtledove: Nichole Yoshida clicked the remote's channel-up button, first once, then twice.

First sentence of The Purloined Republic by James Morrow: Let's get the snickering over with right away. Yes, I was a porn star.

First sentence of Because It Is Bitter by Cat Rambo: The electric bus was driverless, but you could see the shifting of the driver's wheel back and forth as it adjusted its course, as though someone invisible sat in the seat.

Premise/plot: And The Last Trump Shall Sound is a collection of three novellas set in the 2030s. It is satire slash dystopia. Each story is rooted in the idea that Presidents Trump and Pence have ruined The United States of America beyond all hope of redemption--the only choice remains is for individual states to secede from the USA and form their own nations.

In the first novella, California, Washington, and Oregon secede from the USA--not without threats and rants from President Pence--to form the new nation of Pacifica. (They are not the only states that will secede by the end of the collection, but they are the first three.) The point of view is that Pacifica encapsulates everything good and right and moral...according to a Leftist/Liberal point of view. And the USA encapsulates everything evil, repugnant, and disgusting. To be Southern, to be Christian, to be Conservative, to be Republican, well, you might as well not have a soul, not even be a human being. You are evil, evil, evil, evil, evil. Did you get the idea that you're EVIL. There are no nuances allowed in this satire/dystopia. You can't be a Christian and espouse Christian values and morals and ethics AND question the character and integrity of Trump/Pence. No, if you're a Christian then you are 100% team Republican all the way. Not only team Republican, but TEAM TRUMP AND TEAM PENCE. (As if Republicans aren't divided in some ways about these two). And it's not a good thing to be Christian in this one, no, it automatically makes you evil because you must breathe hate in and out all day long. Again no nuances allowed. Same thing with Southern states. To be born in the South is to automatically be a hater and all kinds of backward. I would assume there's also bias in being WHITE and or white and male and being evil. But by this point, just assume that if you're not well left of anything moderate and common sense then you are just EVIL. There are three stories in all. The first establishes the world that all three are set in. The first story is definitely the weakest--in my opinion.

In the second novella, Polly Nightingale (former porn star) goes undercover for Pacifica and impersonates Reverend Walker Lambert, an advisor to President Pence. Her mission is to speak for the Lord (not really) and convince President Pence to do crazy, outlandish, ridiculous things that even the totally evil people who remain in the USA will find repugnant. Since they are so "warped" in their thinking, Pence's words and actions must be really, really, really, really really out there. Her visions from the Lord must be convincing enough to fool Pence. The climax of this one involves a "supernatural" resurrection of a certain somebody....

In the third novella, Ernst, a worker for GoogleSoft finds himself in a bit of a mess as he leaves the relative safety of Pacifica to venture into the United States pursuing a person who stole his life's work (a research project first started by his grandmother).

My thoughts: I would not recommend this book for Christians, not because I believe--as the authors must???--that ALL Christians must by default be Trump/Pence supporters and be Team Republican until their dying breaths...and maybe even beyond. I would not recommend this book for Christians because it uses crude language, is condescending in its general tone and assumptions, and lacks the depth of being thought provoking. I'm fine completely with critiquing the system and offering political commentary. Political commentary isn't unwelcome--nor is satire, if it's good. Satire, in my opinion, should hold a kernel of truth with some mocking humor. The absolute best writers of satire are equal opportunists--they know that there is plenty worth poking on both sides: Republican and Democrat, Liberal and Conservative, Left and Right, etc. I can laugh at both sides most of the time. I'm not so team anything that I can't find humor in dark and dry places.

The best dystopias have some subtlety thrown in. They draw you into the story in some delightfully creepy ways. Think Twilight Zone, for example. The created worlds can be bizarre, super bizarre, oppressive, weird, horrifying--combinations of all the above. But there is usually some subtlety. Think The of the best in the genres. Or think 1984 or Fahrenheit 451. Again the best of the best of the best. This book lacks any hint of subtlety. I would say it would be like applying lipstick with a paintbrush. A smaller brush would do a better job.

This book isn't great at being satire or great at being a dystopia. I will say this....the third story is the best of the three. I would actually rate the third story by itself as closer to four stars. The other two stories--I'm being generous with one and two stars respectively. If all three stories were as clever and as well written as the third story, I would give the book a higher rating.

The book felt lazy to me.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

AnneKristy said...

Fantastic review!