Dystopian America

I recently read Dan Simmons's 2011 dystopian novel, Flashback.

From the back cover:

Some twenty years from now, the United States is near total collapse. But 85 percent of the population doesn't care: They're addicted to flashback, a drug that allows its users to re-experience the best moments of their lives. After former detective Nick Bottom's wife died in a car accident, he started going under the flash to be with her; now an addict, he's lost his job and is estranged from his teenage son.

Nick may be a tortured soul but he's still a good cop, so he's hired by a top government advisor to investigate the murder of the advisor's son. Soon Nick becomes the one man who can change the course of an entire nation turning away from tomorrow to live in the past.

Simmons draws on the events of the last few decades, ending historically with the first years of the Obama administration, and offers a very dark, possible future. There are ongoing race wars, a new Mexico has reclaimed large swathes of the southwest, Texas is again an independent republic, and most Americans, including the hero, care far more about reliving their glory days than solving the problems.

Although it's science fiction, this is at heart a pulp detective novel with dark twists and turns along the way to solving a murder. Despite its 550 pages, it moves quickly and is a pretty good read. Simmons occasionally takes a break from the action to preach to the reader about obscure things like the disastrous effects of national debt and enabling Iran, but it didn't really diminish how much I enjoyed the book. (Maybe because I agree with much of what he says?) I don't want to spoil the ending, but I will say that it is unusual. If you enjoy these kinds of stories, I highly recommend it.

As a last note, parts of the book feature trucker convoys through the anarchic wastelands of the American West which reminded me a lot of the song Grim posted back at the end of June:


Ymar Sakar said...

Simmons' Hyperion ish books always seemed big on prophecies and predictions, from recollection.

Texan99 said...

I'm reading it now, enjoying it so far.

Tom said...

Ymar: I hadn't heard of Simmons before, but I'm thinking about checking out some of his other stuff. Any recommendations?

Tex: Cool. I'll be interested in your take on it when you finish.

Anonymous said...

Simmons writes in multiple genres. Nothing he's written, that I know of, is like Flashback.

Carrion Comfort is one of the three best horror novels of the 20th century, according to Stephen King. The Terror is supposed to be good too. I haven't read any of Simmons science fiction - probably his favored genre.

Carrion Comfort: follows an elderly Jewish man hunting down a small group of people, including several old Nazis, who are able to control other's actions/thoughts like puppeteers.

The Terror: A North Pole expedition in the days of sailing gets trapped in the ice, while the survivors are picked off by some kind of monster.


Tom said...

Hey, Michael. Thanks for the recommendations. I'm not a big horror fan, but Carrion Comfort looks interesting. I may have to check it out.

Grim said...

For the end of the world was long ago,
And all we dwell to-day
As children of some second birth,
Like a strange people left on earth
After a judgment day.

For the end of the world was long ago,
When the ends of the world waxed free,
When Rome was sunk in a waste of slaves,
And the sun drowned in the sea.

When Caesar's sun fell out of the sky
And whoso hearkened right
Could only hear the plunging
Of the nations in the night.

When the ends of the earth came marching in
To torch and cresset gleam.
And the roads of the world that lead to Rome
Were filled with faces that moved like foam,
Like faces in a dream.