07 June 2013

Brilliantly Terrifying New Dystopian Sci-Fi Novel from B. Obama!

Harou Romain, Project for a Prison, 1840
I can't say I've followed the writing career of B. Obama very closely over the years — his oeuvre seemed a bit too mainstream, a bit too conservative for my tastes — but I'm interested in the book he's apparently been working on for more than five years now, a kind of sequel, it seems, to Patriot Acts by G.W. Shrub* (a paranoid military thriller that was, inexplicably, the most popular book in the U.S. before Fifty Shades of Grey).

Various sources have reported rumors about the new Obama book over the years, including apparently facetious reports that it would be not one book but a series, collectively titled Drone Strike, with individual entries such as Drone Strike: American Citizen Down! and Drone Strike: Oops, Dead Kids!.

It seems now that Obama is actually at work on a comprehensive near-future epic. The Wall Street Journal has a particularly concise summary of some facets of the dystopian world imagined by the writer:
A secret government arrangement with Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, the country's three largest phone companies, means that every time the majority of Americans makes a call, NSA [the protagonist, apparently] gets a record of the location, the number called, the time of the call and the length of the conversation, according to people familiar with the manuscript. The practice, which evolved out of warrantless wiretapping programs begun after 2001, is now approved by all three branches of the U.S. government. [...]

NSA also obtains access to data from Internet service providers on Internet use such as data about email or website visits, several publishing industry insiders said. NSA has established similar relationships with credit-card companies...
Other details are, right now, sketchy, and some critics have complained that the details we've gotten so far do not inspire hope for a truly original vision. I'm more optimistic, since it sounds like up till now we've only heard about the tip of the proverbial Hemingwayesque iceberg. Previous bestsellers with similar settings tended to include heroic rebels against the system, who, even if their rebellions ended up being symbolic or forgotten, at least gave the reader a way to imagine some way to change the present and hope for a better future. It sounds like Obama's book could be much bleaker than that. We should remember, though, that he has distinguished himself as a brutal writer when he needs to be, with a particular expertise in convincing his very loyal fanbase that, unlike, say, George R.R. Martin, the characters he kills off are not ones they should care about.

And though I certainly agree with critics who say that Obama's imaginings as we currently  understand them lack originality, I think the complete vision could be impressive and terrifying: a total control bureaucracy overseeing a fully surveilled society, supported by a massive prison system, "indefinite detentions",  leaders utterly beholden to the whims of sociopathic financiers, and legal justifications for every extralegal act (remember that Obama is known by the nickname "President Constitutional Law Prof", and we can be sure his future novels will include scenes with lawyers offering copious defenses of even the most authoritarian actions — indeed, I'd say Obama is a better satirist of the American legal system than even William Gaddis). And that's probably not all.

Reports suggest that the new book is still far from finished, but for those of us who enjoy apocalyptic and dystopian stories, the publicity campaign that has begun for Obama's work is already enticing.

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*reportedly ghostwritten by Dick Chaingang, lead singer of the late-'70s Nazi punk band Living Nixons

1 comment:

  1. You tricked me! Well done and well said. Of course, you know that a record of this post, this comment too, is now on File with the N.S.A.

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