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Amusing take on an alternate political reality, but does not last
on 30 November 2008
I bought this book some years back, perhaps because I was at the time of a political outlook not far from what was portrayed in the book.
The backdrop and plot should be known to the readers, but for good measure I will provide a short rehash: the new US (aka The Federated Bloc), *everything* is privatized. The state barely exists and has no noticeable presence or function in the everyday life of the public. Corporations are by far the most visible element in daily life, and some run the functions which government once provided (police, military, courts). People take their surname from their employer. And so on.
A Nike shoes employee, Hack Nike, is tasked to increase the demand for a new brand of Nike shoes (with an extreme sales price and an equally extreme(-ly low) production cost), by having ten teenagers shot when the first store carrying the product opens. He passes the job on (outsourcing) to the Police, which then outsources to the NRA, and from there on, it all goes wrong: The product launch turns into more of a bloodbath than Hack intended, and a mother of one of the victims of the campaign hires a government agent to investigate.
The satirical oppertunity of the book is immense considering its setting in a world where privatization is taken to an extreme; in other words it would be candy for both those pro and anti of the portrayed world.
Unfortunately it doesn't last; you can only go on for so long about describing a radically different political-economic reality without taking an overt point for or against it; the author, wisely so, abstains from this as that would have turned the book into a rant, instead he goes down the humorous road, spiked with satire.
That doesn't last either; the humor fades away after the half-way marker, and the book ends up in the way of a confusing detective story with twists and sudden entrees that doesn't go well with the general feel of the story.
After putting the book down I'm left with a sense of having read though a mishmash of political humor cum crime story; it has some good highlights, but overall not leaving any impression, and probably wont have me take it up again in the future.
In closing - some people have claimed it is a social critique, an open attack on libertarianism, and dystopian in the lines of 1984. I'd say it is none of the three; it simply does not cut deep enough in these repects. It is not a social critique, because it is not very critical of anything (the main characters' negative experiences are in my view not cast as a general verdict against the ills of the society (which there do nt seem to be many of!), but mostly due to their own dissatisfaction. This is furthermore hard to tell because the portrayal of the persons and their emotions tend to be flat), it is not an attack on libertarianism, as it - again - doesnt offer any overt criticism (it is not a political rant, it's satirical humor, remember?), and it is not dystopian, because the world is not bad as such (unless you really hate anything private, in which case you likely will feel that the book is dystopian), merely different (all you know from today is there; dfference is that government doesnt provide any of it) with some negative aspects drawing from extreme privatization of everything (legalized private assasinations being the prime example), but this is not in itself a sufficient qualifying criteria.