Vincent M. Wales
DGC Press, 2004 $15.95
Review by Daven
I have to admit, when the publicist approached me and asked me to review this book, I was somewhat cautious. I don’t normally review fiction, nor do I review books that don’t talk about Paganism in general. I have made a few exceptions for one reason or another. This time I’m very glad I did.
This book is a dystopian look at what could happen if the current policies in America are continued forward into the 2020’s. There are only a few characters, the President’s daughter, a man named Jude and another named “Thomas Paine”. The President is a fundamentalist Christian, and his family is as well. Their best friend is Gene Sisco (a copy of Jerry Falwell) who blames the current state of America on Pagans, Gays, Satan and any other scapegoat he can find. Additionally, Congress is Conservative and Christian, and the Supreme Court is also ultra conservative and ultra Christian.
So, as one may surmise given this setup, there starts a chain of events that affects everyone in the book, and the nation as well.
There is NO narrative storyline. There is a plot, but instead of this story being narrated by a single coherent voice from either the first or third person, you read the story in personal journals, emails, chat logs, interviews, speeches and other written or broadcast media for all the characters. This is my first experience with this particular style of writing and I found it effective as it lets the reader see inside the head of every character.
Because of this the narrative skips about. Entries are dated (for example, letters have the date they were written on them.) so they can be followed in sequence, and the chapters are broken down by years. The story flows very well.
Because of how the story is written, there are some odd mechanisms used to tell the story. For example, an investigative reporter (ala Geraldo) does a live broadcast containing information crucial for the reader to know. The entries that are shared are incomplete. For instance, when we look into the President’s journal entries, there is no mention of problems in the world, foreign policy, the economy and all the other situations that a President has to deal with. The only things told to us are pieces of information regarding the story, and any ancillary information that affects the plot, but only IF it has an impact on the story itself.
It took me some time to get into the story. About half way through the book it started picking up for me, and I was able to become involved enough to lose myself. After that, I couldn’t put the book down.
This book was also presented to me as a “pagan friendly” book and it is a friendly book in that it is not critical of paganism or Wicca in specific. It covers topics like parental relations, lesbianism, polyamory, Wicca and paganism, American life and laws.
The plot is predictable. I say this in a good way in this case. It should be predictable and the situations flow logically from one point to another, each building off the previous. There are no last minute surprises that mysteriously appear out of thin air, and very few red herrings to confuse the reader.
One thing that is made absolutely plain is that our inaction now has desperate effects in the future, and those effects may be impossible to rectify later.
Because there are so many characters, it is somewhat confusing to keep track of who is talking when, but the author fixes that through the use of different font faces for different speakers. That got me a few times as the specific typeface used for the President’s writing makes the “I” look like a “J”. But that is a minor qualm.
I’ve been thinking of what rating to give this book, and after considering all the factors, I’m going to give it 4 stars of 5. As I said, it’s slow to start, and there are some things I think could have been included to make this a richer story. If you wish to read the first chapter of this book, please go to http://vincentmwales.com/ONUG/ and click on “Free Downloads”.
Mary: I have yet to read this book but it sounds a lot like “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. If you haven’t read it I rate “The Handmaid’s Tale” 4 1/2 stars out of 5, simply because I want to know what happened.