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Bookends: Too Much Remembrance of Things Past can be a Dangerous Thing December 29, 2013

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Too Much Remembrance of Things Past can be a Dangerous Thing

By Dan Davidson

September 18, 2013

– 775 words –



By Dan Simmons

Little Brown & Co.

692 pages



Approximately two decades from now the world is in a hell of a mess. The United States of America has fractured into a number of loosely affiliated ethnic states dominated by a variety of Anglo, Latino and Black power groups. The economic collapse created by the increase in entitlement funding was accelerated by the social and cultural collapse as white America reacted to the complete loss of international status that attended the national bankruptcy.

Enter the new drug, Flash, which allows a person to select and wallow in memories of more pleasant times and relive them over and over. The majority of the nation has become at least occasional users, and many are addicts.

Nick Bottom (and yes, the Midsummer Night’s Dream references are relevant to his story) has been a steady flash user ever since his wife was killed in a car accident. He’s abandoned his job as a police officer, the raising of his son (sent to his father-in-law) and just about any interest in anything other than finding his next flash fix so he can “be with” Dara again. He barely gets by doing a little private eye work.

Accordingly he is happy to take on a very rich commission from Hiroshi Nakamura, one of a number of highly placed Japanese envoys (or federal advisors) living in the US. In fact, the Japanese are propping up what is left of America by paying to hire mercenary soldiers to carry on a war they are fighting in China. There are, effectively, two power blocks in the world at this time. Japan is one of them. The other is the Islamic Global Caliphate, a mixture of states governed according to the worst that jihad has to offer. One of its first global actions was to set off enough nuclear explosions to destroy the nation of Israel.

Nakumura wants Nick, who was one of the original lead investigators on this case, to find out who killed his son, Keigo. Part of Nick’s qualification for this job is the fact that he once read all the files related to the case, files which no longer exist, and he can review them all again with perfect clarity thanks to the existence of flash.

Aside from Nick’s story we also follow the fortunes of his son, Val, and his father-in-law, Leonard. Val has gotten mixed up with some very bad young people. They undertake dreadful activities so as to have the pleasure of flashing on them later. Leonard is a retired octogenarian English professor who has simply been trying to do the best for his grandson, without a great deal of success. When Val becomes involved in a plot to assassinate another Japanese envoy (just for kicks, you understand) he and Leonard find themselves fleeing across country as part of a truckers’ convoy, leaving a Los Angeles in the midst of a multi-racial upheaval and heading for Nick in Denver.

Leonard is seeking sanctuary for himself and his grandson. Val would just like to have the opportunity to kill his father, who he believes was responsible for his mother’s death one way or another. He’s wrong about that, of course, but it does emerge that her death was not the simple highway accident that Nick had always believed it to be. When they are finally all together in Denver a lot of personal issues get sorted out.

There are plots within plots in this novel. Science fiction has always had something of an affinity for the mystery genre, and Simmons has written in both areas in the past. Here he combines the noir style of the detective novel with a bit of futuristic speculation. It’s obvious from the outset that Nick is being manipulated, but just how much doesn’t become clear until very near the end of the story, which takes place for the most part over a very intense 15 day timeline in September. As the story develops we learn that Nick is not the only person being manipulated and that everything is not quite as black as we see it through the eyes of our protagonists.

I always enjoy Simmons’ books, but I was troubled as I read this one to feel that parts of it read like a Tea Party manifesto. Some of the cultural notions expressed by various people in the book are more than slightly disturbing, but I take these to be necessary parts of the plot rather than a statement of the author’s philosophy.









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