It is no secret that John Shirley is my favorite author. I have devoted many posts on my blog to his work. I have been following the progress of this novel from it’s early stages and I am glad to say it lived up to my high expectations. If you follow Shirley’s blog you’ll know that he is not a big fan of Libratarians or the Tea party. Known for his politically charged fiction Shirley is back with a novel that has engaged more than a few tea-baggers.
It’s too bad because they are the one that could really think about the issues that Shirley raises in this novel. I think this book has more of chance to effect those readers who are on the right leaning moderates. Those who think that Regan was right about government needing to be small enough to drown in a bathtub are probably beyond help at this point.
Everything is Broken is not as subtle as Shirley’s liberal end times answers to the left behind series “The Other End,” but that novel at its heart was a spiritual tale. This novel is a nasty grime covered baseball bat to the head of cold hard reality. Makes sense when you consider the event that starts the novel off is a Tsunami, and the setting is a small coastal California town filled with Live wire villains. That is the reality though, who is keeping the jerks in line when the world falls apart.
This novel reminded me of how Stephen King creates vivid and anger inducing bullies better than anyone. Shirley goes a great job of creating characters just ripe for justice and imagine this, it didn’t take thousands of pages.
There is nothing subtle about this novel what so ever, it might easy to get turned away but the ugly-ness of the characters but that is a very important part of the story. The characters are strongly written and Fully realized almost instantly. A favorite moment of Characterization happened on page 196 – “He couldn’t even stare back at the guy. It was like looking at a harsh light.” The suspense and horror at the root of it is also perfectly done.
At first glance the monster of this novel might seem to be the Tsunami, but this is just a Maguffin. This novel could just has easily been about a tornado in Oklahoma, or a zombie novel for that matter. Romero always used the zombie tale to highlight social issues, and that is at the heart of this story. Don’t get me wrong the tsunami generated plenty of horror in this tale but the monsters are the people who the main characters considered neighbors in Freedom, California.
Even before the Tsunami came, the town’s mayor moved to cut ties with big government, by firing the majority of the cops, closing the fire department and encouraging Private industry to take over. Of course that didn’t happen so when the big wave comes, it means it is up to the twenty year old hero Russ and his dad to organize the town.
The mayor sees a chance to re-make the town to his beliefs, He has to do something as the storm has knocked out most of what he owns. Thus begins a relationship with Dickie, the local thug has similar ideas about riding the wave into a new era of “Freedom.” With the town cut-off from civilization the ideas of freedom and big government are tested.
Shirley’s Original title was “Welcome to Freedom,” While probably a more proper title it might have been a bit too much on the nose. It would be easy to say this novel is a 280 page argument against libertarianism, but it is much deeper than that. It is also about social controls that hold the socio-paths among us from running wild.
I’d put it up there with some of the great non-supernatural horror novels like David Morrell’s Testament or Jack Ketchum’s Girl Next Door. At the same time it’s an important novel that explores issues we as a society need to discuss. The question is do you have the stomach to read it?
I think you should read this John Shirley novel, but if you were planning on voting for Ron Paul to might want to put it a bit higher on your TBR pile. You have a “To Be Read” Pile right?