George Berger's Mendacities is his debut novel, and it's one that I stumbled into (literally) as we often do on the 'Net, but more on that later.
Reading the premise of some quirky high-school students who expose a government conspiracy raised an eyebrow, or as the author put it himself, this book is "an entertainingly dystopian coming-of-age story of love, lies, and casual nudity, which defies genre conventions like a Mideast dictator thumbing his over-sized nose at the United Nations...but in a good way."
In this book, we meet our anonymous narrator, a generally cynical high-school student who is constantly eating. There's Nat (Nataliya), an occasionally caustic tomboy who has no problem with casual nudity. Then there's Al (Alice), an often-unfathomable transfer student with a shaved head, and the daughter of a high-ranking political character.
It all starts with a high-school project for a communications class after their previous teacher had died, an investigation of what is called the Garnet Hotel disaster, which had taken place a decade earlier, and this all seems to interlace with the Nine Months War that had taken place in the past, one in which a devices known as Cicadas had been employed as a defense move. As they research through newspapers and the town library, they find that things don't jive. Author Berger has been building a slow, subtle background to this narration, and then in Chapter Six we see this:
"Have you ever done something in life that later turned out to be stupendously important, and then kicked yourself because you didn't take notes or pictures or anything at the time? Like, had a conversation that, years later, turned out to have changed your life-only by the time you realize this fact, you can no longer remember exactly what was said, or even who was there, or where it took place?"
That represents a pivotal point in this novel, and as the three continue their journalistic endeavor, trying to gather more facts about the Garnet Hotel disaster, they discover a cover-up that goes much higher than they could have ever imagined, involving the military and the government at its highest levels. Al reveals that her father is a ranking member of an organization known as the Order of the Silver Badger, a cabal that controls everything from parts of the service industries to a major portion of the drug trade. And things really get strange after this, as it's revealed that the "war" itself was a cover-up, partially engineered by the Order of the Golden Shark, which controlled the news media.
When three uniformed military men wearing dark glasses show up at the front door, members of Crimson Eagle, that's when "everything went straight to hell."
This is no stereotypical young adult novel, regardless of how it's presented. The conspiracy theory here is preposterous, quite absurd, to put it mildly. There are covert actions, murders and danger galore, along with cabals controlling the media, the military, and the government itself. But the author's writing is splendid. He's amazingly witty at times, and his dystopian theme is original.
Dystopian societies as hypothesized by fiction writers are nothing new. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is probably the best-known current dystopian series. But Ray Bradbury's 1953 classic Fahrenheit 451, which offers a future American society where books are outlawed and firemen burn any house that contains them, is considered by many to be the best of the dystopian genre.
The author's dystopian theme works well, but it does drag in places, and there are parts where the reader has to struggle to get through it all. Luckily it's worth it, as the ending is in no way predictable. But this reader had difficulty with this Kindle edition on both a Kindle 2 and a Kindle Fire, as the formatting was not good at all. The author states that it was produced "with blood, sweat, tears, Linux, and rock 'n' roll," but perhaps Mr. Berger needs a better computer translator from Linux to whichever one he's using. There's a huge difference in his most recent offering, Midnight's Tale, which is a beautifully crafted Kindle Single, not just in layout, but in its story as well. And that's the book that made me want to read more from this author, and how I ended up here.
Author George Berger's Mendacities is a good book with an excellent dystopian theme, and even though its formatting is substandard, it's one that is a worthy read, especially if you are interested in an author's debut offering. But it's also good to see the improvements in his newest work.