- Pro Review
- Discovery Awards
IN SIX DAYS
By M. Quilman
IN SIX DAYS frames its narrative with a teenage girl in prison, awaiting a television interview about her charges of eco-terrorism. The setup is clear and solid – the text withholds the truth of the charges, and shifts immediately to a scene of two men destroying a truck dealership with improvised explosives and automatic weapons, adding a splash of doubt and tension as to how the young protagonist has ended up in her current predicament. The narrative unspools along multiple well-balanced plotlines: the eco-terrorist attacks themselves and the FBI procedural scenes on one hand; on the other, a former environmental activist struggling to raise his daughter with a vision of justice, and the political forces marshalling to oppose that vision.
The text juggles its plotlines well, allowing for moments of relative calm interspersed with action to pull the reader forward (although some expository FBI-investigation scenes, as in any work, tend to drag). The prose itself is sharp and confident. Scenes like the early destruction of the truck dealership evoke Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club with their totemic iteration of absurd capitalist language (car colors with trademarked names, dollar-per-horsepower calculations) and the fetishistic details of firearms. The figurative language is funny and forward: a Republican senator stands out as “315 pounds of crawfish etouffee.” That said, the execution can stumble at times: homophonic errors (your/you’re, its/it’s), missed punctuation (especially commas and quotation marks), and some stylistic problems (“ok” for “okay,” or “thru” for “through”) are never outright confusing, but they do indicate that a more thorough copy-edit would clean up and elevate the text. More troublesome is the occasional tense-switching between past and present; the narrative is in the past, but some slips into the present tense seem to intend persistent or ongoing facts about the world without clearly signaling that intention.
Though IN SIX DAYS is definitely political fiction, it treats its politics appreciatively and distantly. A few fascinating and timely core ideas are present, but never central or fully-developed. Why have progressive causes like the American green movement largely given up on the sometimes-violent direct action which characterized their late 20th-century strategies? What prompts progressive thought to enter the cultural mainstream while conservative thought pushes farther right into radicalism and violence? Why is Christian belief a political weapon of American conservative forces when the Bible advocates progressive values like stewardship of the earth and the sinfulness of greed? These questions are the backdrop to the narrative but rarely enter the foreground, and although the plot itself ties together, readers hoping for more analysis of those political questions – even an emotional analysis – will find themselves left wanting.
Thoughtful and fun, well-plotted and well-imagined, IN SIX DAYS needs only a final copy-edit to truly stand out as a novel and an exemplar for modern political fiction.
~Dan Accardi for IndieReader