Imagine a future that is both equally implausible and yet eerily familiar. In just a few years from now, Lawrence Bowie will secede from the U.S. to form his own idea of a Utopian America, built on behemoth levels of lies, corruption, crime and egotism. As the citizens of the recently founded Real America outdo Jonestown in terms of loyalty and leader worship, it is up to a talented guerrilla tribe of “moocher-liberal-feminist” patriots of Old USA to dispatch the megalomaniac and reawaken his hardcore followers.
The second part of Michael McCord’s Real America saga, END TIMES: More Great Adventures in Real America flits between the inner machinations of Bowie’s money-hungry, civilian-killing, propaganda-heavy administration and the conspiracy plot being planned out by the Moocher Resistance Front (MRF). Lead by Penelope the Psychic–a 60-year old militia expert–the MRF begins to enact a brutal plot to overthrow Bowie’s tyranny with a cunning use of military assaults and harsh truths.
END TIMES is a classic example of telling the audience what’s happening, rather than showing them. It eschews emotion or heart, favoring instead an almost historical account of an alternative America that will most likely frighten readers. Bowie himself is a caricature, a kind of cartoon-y villain the likes of which most will recognize in some form or another. As a novel, END TIMES feels extraordinarily expositional. It moves around the plot using a kind of ‘this happened then that happened’ device, with the occasional burst of juicy story revelation that actually works in its favor and keeps it engaging.
It is a bit of a shame that McCord becomes so engrossed in the political satire he’s obviously passionate about. The characters themselves feel mostly like footnotes in some historical text; there to tell the story and not to get bogged down with sentimental background or development. Having said that, the plot feels like it yearns for an emotional response from its audience. There are moments that may make the reader smirk knowingly with its absurdity, yet in the next moment will make them furrow their brow in worry: “could this actually happen?”
END TIMES has the workings of a serious take on the world we live in, with a hint of the 2006 sci-fi thriller Idiocracy thrown into the mix. It may also be compared to the likes of 1984, in terms of its dystopian image. But where Orwell’s classic dives deep into the lives of those who live under tyranny, END TIMES privileges the reader by inviting them into the inner circle, just to see how angry the politics of McCloud’s vision can make them.
~Andrew Heaton for IndieReader