Friday, December 16, 2016

Post-Brexit Romp

Review: 54th State by Ian Thompson

Start with a now-American rocker named Tristan Beaver, politically and scientifically clueless, with his celebrity space shot. While Mars and the Moon are old-hat destinations on a well-travelled route, Beaver will make a splash with a crew of non-astronaut groupies and a startling destination: Jupiter's Red Spot.

Add a paradigm-busting US president whose idea of a great deal is to purchase new states (most recently, Cuba), plus a hopelessly incompetant British government surviving only by the efforts of mid-level clerk-assistants, with a post-Brexit space program hoping to be revitalized by Beaver's probe—all the elements needed for a romp. 

Okay, Beaver is not a former Canadian (despite the evocative title of the first paragraph: "Rock Stars, Eh?"), but is instead from rural-industrial England. He became an American, we learn, to avoid British taxes. 

And the free-market-dealing US President is a Libertarian—and a one-time member of Beaver's entourage. (Thompson would appear to have been equally taken by surprise by the recent US election results; his clueless Brit politicos refer on more than one occasion to "that lady President" who preceeded the current fictional holder of the office.)

The resulting farce is rollicking, hilarious, and satisfyingly irreverent in the way all good political comedies are. The Brexit result is called upon to explain the dire finances of Britain, and the ham-handed financial finagle of their treasury chief takes care of the rest. The interplay between the Prime Minister, Sir Barnaby Chamberlain, and the actual chief mover of the government, his aide Forbes, parallels that government's supposed philosophical dissonance with the British electorate.

Wrapped inside this satirical goofiness is a serious thread: a terrorist threat, the struggle of the Beaver Probe's crew to survive their ridiculous mission in a sabotaged spcecraft, plus a truly unexpected twist that takes the reader by surprise. It keeps the story from disintegrating into sniggers and stereotypes.

In fact, my next act after finishing this book was to buy Thompson's previous novel, EZICASH (subtitled How to usurp a totalitarian behemoth with a monkey wrench.) At less than a dollar, the purchase was another steal, and I look forward to reading his "satirical look at Health and Safety mixed with greed." 

I'll have to wait for my sides to stop aching from laughter before I undertake the next journey into his hilarious take on British politics!

Liner Notes:

I nominated 54th State in the Kindle Scout program, but since it was not selected, I purchased it for the princely sum of 99 cents. That's US pennies, by the way. Once again the program has introduced me to an author who has joined my "read everything by" list. If anyone wonders how I manage to read 200 to 300 books a year, the Kindle Scout program is a serious factor in feeding my To-Be-Read stack!