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Best Books of the Year So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2015's Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
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Glenn Beck, the nationally syndicated radio host and founder of TheBlaze television network, is a twelve-time #1 bestselling author and is one of the few authors in history to have had #1 national bestsellers in the fiction, nonfiction, self-help, and children’s picture book genres. His recent fiction works include the thrillers Agenda 21, The Overton Window, and its sequel, The Eye of Moloch; his many nonfiction titles include Conform, Miracles and Massacres, Control, and Being George Washington. For more information about Glenn Beck, his books, and TheBlaze TV network, visit GlennBeck.com and TheBlaze.com.
Harriet Parke is a registered nurse who specialized in emergency nursing and Emergency Department management. She has been published in the My Dad Is My Hero anthology, five Voices from the Attic anthologies (published by Carlow University, Pittsburgh, Pa.), the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and Pittsburgh Magazine. She has received an honorable mention from an Atlantic Monthly student short fiction writing contest. She is a member of The Madwomen, a Carlow University writing group, and a member of Pennwriters. A wild peacock roosts on her deck anytime he chooses.
I was on my energy board when they came. They didn’t knock. They just came in, men in black uniforms. Enforcers. I shut off my board and stumbled, hitting my hip against the metal sidebar. They didn’t say anything but held up their hands in a way that told me to stop and not come any closer. My meter was only halfway to the finish point. Mother had gotten off her sleeping mat when she heard them at the door and stood there, head down. How tangled her hair looked, gray and lifeless.
They asked which sleeping mat was hers. She pointed to mine. I started to say, “No that’s mine,” but she gave a little shake of her head so I kept quiet. One of them rolled up the mat and put it under his arm. The other one tied short, dirty ropes to Mother’s wrists. I knew not to cry in front of the Enforcers but tears burned hot behind my eyes.
Mother hadn’t done her duty walking since I was paired with Jeremy two days ago. She had stayed curled up on her sleeping mat, her face to the wall, her back a row of bony knobs. I had walked both my board and hers those two days so our meters would register at Central Authority for two people. That was the only way to get food for both of us.
Maybe they could tell one person was doing two different meters because the meters registered at different times. Who knows? I’ve seen too many things over the almost eighteen years I’ve spent on this Earth to ever doubt the Authority’s power.
Mother went quietly, shuffling her feet across the rough concrete floor. She looked back at me and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t teach you enough . . . . I love you.” There was a scratchy sound to her voice as though the words were stuck inside her. “I’m sorry, Emmeline.” I didn’t know what she meant and I didn’t have time to ask. The Enforcers, one on each side of her, tugged on the ropes. She looked weak and shrunken between them.
I watched through the window slit as they pulled Mother up the steps of the bus-box. How trapped she looked sitting between them. Six other men, large and muscular in orange uniforms, stood in their harnesses. The Transport Team. The bus-box lurched forward as the men began walking in unison. I watched until it disappeared around the curve past our Compound.
Then I ran after her. The Gatekeeper didn’t see me; he was making rounds at the far end. I ran as fast and as hard as I could along the ridge between the ruts in the dirt road, the muscles in my legs clenching and unclenching like fists, until I could see the bus-box.
I slipped to the side of the road, crouching down, creeping closer. The bus-box turned onto a narrower road, hidden by trees. I never knew that road was there.
The green flag marking the area was barely visible. Beyond it was a building I had never seen before. Bigger than any Living Space and a deeper, darker gray than the other buildings. No window slits, just blank, forbidding walls.
The bus-box stopped in front of the building’s only door. Through the trees I could see the Enforcers walk Mother to the door. Dust swirled around her ankles as she shuffled. The odor here seemed familiar but was much more potent.
Mother still had the ropes on her wrists and the Enforcers were holding them tightly. She turned, looked at me as though she knew I’d been following her the whole time, and somehow was able to raise one hand to touch her chest, her heart. That motion lasted only a second. I’ll remember it for a lifetime.
A hand reached out and pulled Mother inside. The door slammed shut.
While the Enforcers got back on the bus-box, I hid behind a tree and watched until they disappeared. Then I leaned my head against the tree and beat my fists against the rough bark until they bled.
* * *
I had never been alone before. Mother never allowed that. Never. Jeremy was not yet back from work. Around me was only gray. Gray walls, gray floor. A cold concrete square. One window slit on each of the four walls and the single wooden door that led outside to the Compound’s common area, a packed dirt space with a gate, guarded by a Gatekeeper. Inside, the space was divided into three areas. To one side of the door was the eating space with a counter to place our nourishment cubes and water bottles on. On the other side, the washing-up room with its limp privacy curtain. In the back was the sleeping area, with our mats on the floor and hooks on the wall to hang our uniforms. Along the wall on the right was the energy output area. This is where our boards stood, side by side.
These were all the spaces where Mother used to be.
I walked into the sleeping area. Mother’s mat, just long enough and wide enough for one person, covered with the same frayed fabric as the privacy curtain, was stretched over a foam mattress four inches thick on the cold concrete floor. Her blanket had fallen onto the floor. I picked it up and held it to my face, breathing deeply. The fabric was rough and cold, but it smelled of Mother, her skin, her hair. I could see the imprint of her body on the mat. Where her head had been, her shoulders, her hips. I ran my fingertips over the mat, feeling those spaces. Then I curled up in the imprint and pulled her blanket over me. It was safe to cry now.
* * *
There was nothing to do but get back on my board and walk. Create energy. Create energy. Create energy. Get my meter to finish. The sound of my feet pounding on the board and another sound, a low hiss, as the friction and heat of the board is siphoned away through a small hose connected to an outlet in the wall and then into the energy download bar in front of our space. Every Space has a download bar like ours, but the bars belong to the Central Authority. They own everything. They use the energy to supply our needs. Our nourishment cubes, our clothing, everything. They call it the Energy Neutral Policy. I hate their big titles.
Mother once told me that producing energy was one of the two things the Republic cared about most. The other thing was producing healthy babies. Being productive and being reproductive. The most valuable Citizens were both. Mother said I was one of the most valuable. I didn’t know what she meant at the time.
The half-hour-till-dusk bell tolled. Jeremy would be home after dusk. We’d eat our nourishment cubes together, drink our water rations. I didn’t think I’d be hungry, but I was already thirsty. I noticed that the needle of my energy meter had moved past halfway.
When they had paired me with Jeremy, Mother refused to get off her sleeping mat to meet him. Men with mustaches from Central Authority got off the bus-box first and walked in lockstep to our door, legs moving straight and stiff as though they had no knees. They had a new headscarf for me, white trimmed in black, and they turned their backs as I removed my black headscarf, my widow scarf, and put this one on. Then Jeremy, escorted by an Enforcer, got off the bus-box. He was thin, scrawny, and his skin was pale.
They did the pairing ceremony, the exchange of vows, in front of our Living Space: I will honor the Republic. I will produce energy for the Republic. I will produce Citizens for the Republic. Praise be to the Republic. Then we all made the circle sign, with our thumb and forefinger held against our foreheads, to salute the Republic.
The men went back to the bus-box and left. Jeremy and I were officially paired. We went into our Living Space. He looked around as though he had never seen one before. He pulled the privacy curtain aside and glanced into the washing-up area. He looked out of the window slits, going from one to the other, pacing back and forth with nervous little steps. Finally he stopped pacing and leaned against the counter.
“I wanted a virgin. And what did I get?” He glanced at me. “You. And an old lady.” He glanced at Mother.
She sat up slowly and pointed her finger at him. I noticed for the first time how old her hands looked, how her finger curved like a claw. She looked sad and started to say something but didn’t.
Jeremy said nothing else, but his eyes narrowed and his lips pinched together. Mother lay back down and never did speak to him.
That was two days ago.
I didn’t teach you enough. What did she mean? What didn’t I know?
Sometimes she talked a lot. Her voice had been like a metronome. Tick, talk, tick, talk. It filled our space. She scratched at her skin as she talked. Fingernails digging into her arms, her ankles. Making little sore spots bigger, crusted with blood.
“It wasn’t always like this,” she would say.
“We had our own farm once. Land. Rolling hills. Green fields. We raised animals, crops. We owned property. It was ours.”
“What happened to it? Where was it?”
“Far away. It was far away. Laws changed. The Authority owns all the property now.”
Why, I wanted to ask, did the laws change? But I didn’t ask her, didn’t interrupt the stories. If I did, she would shut down and turn her face to the wall. That would be the end of her talking.
“We kept animals on the farm,” she said.
Imagine that! Keeping animals! At every Social Update Meeting they remind us that animals are sacred and belong to the Earth, not to people. Animals are protected. We have to recite, in unison, the Pledge of Animals.
I pledge allegiance to the Earth and to the sacred rights of the Earth and to the Animals of the Earth.
Just last month a man was dragged by the Enforcers to the front of the Social Update Meeting and made to kneel before the Authorities. They accused him of running over a snake with his energy bicycle. I think he tried to say it was an accident, but his voice was shaking and hard to hear. His head was down, his chin almost on his chest. He looked small and old, kneeling that way. They put the ropes on his wrists and led him away.
Everyone at the meeting kept their eyes on their shoes. They looked tired and pale and wilted. I think every single person watching knew that could just as well have been them on any given day, for any given reason.
Mother said taking him away was wrong, just wrong. But she didn’t say it very loudly.
Glenn Beck, a nationally syndicated radio host and founder of TheBlaze, is the author of eleven #1 bestselling books: An Inconvenient Book, Glenn Beck's Common Sense, Arguing with Idiots, The Christmas Sweater and The Christmas Sweater: A Picture Book, The Overton Window, Broke, The 7, The Original Argument, Cowards and Control. His other bestselling books include Miracles and Massacres, Agenda 21, The Real America, The Snow Angel and Being George Washington. Beck is also the publisher of Mercury Ink, a publishing imprint (www.mercuryink.com) that, in conjunction with Simon & Schuster, released the #1 bestselling young adult series Michael Vey.
Glenn can be found on the web at www.glennbeck.com and www.theblaze.com.
I really am a fan of Glenn Beck, and I've read most of his books and listen to him every day. I guess I might have had really high expectations to this book that have fallen somewhat short. To my mind, this is really little more than a good "short story". It's a quick read, with very short chapters. It's also a very simple storyline. It's not a bad book at all, and I take it for what it is, a theoretically possible future outcome of some of the policies we see our government enacting day by day. SPOILERS BELOW... This book follows the personal journey of Emmeline, who spends her whole life in a communal society, performing mindless tasks for the regime she lives under. Set in a dystopian future, it is pretty much told from the first-person perspective, which I found intriguing. Maybe that's what threw me off on it, as I was expecting a lot more exposition of the story than given. There is very little character development, and this is to be expected from a 1st person perspective. Everything in the story is from the eyes of Emmeline, who doesn't have much in the way of providing a grand 3rd person perspective on the whole outline of what's happening to her and her baby. They (the government) take her baby from her (for the greater good of society), and she goes through the process of maturation to a point where this matters to her. In retrospect, this is the most compelling part of the story. She enlists the aid of others, who are (mostly) all aloof to the happenings around them as she is. END SPOILERS I said that I felt like this was a short story somehow stretched out to be a novel. I think this is a fair critique of the book. I was immediately reminded of Urusla LeGuin's short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" when I finished the book.Read more ›
A very good fiction book. Glenn Beck has never claimed it was anything but fiction. However, some of the stated goals of the real Agenda 21 and statements from officials representing Agenda 21 are frightening.
Just a few examples:
"Land...cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principle instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth, therefore contributes to social injustice."
"Current lifestyles and consumption patterns of the affluent middle class - involving high meat intake, use of fossil fuels, appliances, home and work air conditioning, and suburban housing are not sustainable."
These are just a few statements that should scare the pants off of any American who believes in the constitution and our right to private property. There are a ton more similar statements made by people in cahoots with Agenda 21.
As the organizer of the SFBay 912 Project and a member of the National 912 Advisory Board (google 912 Project Agenda 21), I was given an advanced copy of the book. For the past two years I have been educating people about the 25 year plan that is being developed in the SFBay Area called the One Bay Area Plan or Plan Bay Area. The Plan combines land use, transportation, and housing. It is being developed by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats. This is top down, central planning. This is a real program, not fiction. This is AGENDA 21 masquerading under the terms Sustainable Communities Strategies, Smart Growth, Sustainable Development. There are similar plans all across the country. I appeared on The Blaze TV on November 19 to discuss our efforts to resist. I am a private citizen but a former USAF officer. I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and it is being trampled on and shredded by this type of planning. It is critical that average citizens start speaking up. Please educate yourself on this topic, get involved, join the resistance. Help restore America.
Below is my review:
"Agenda 21", the book, takes the true implementation of the UN Agenda 21 policies to their logical extreme. Just a conspiracy theory some would say? No, aspects of it are being implemented now throughout the US under the names of sustainable development, Sustainable Communities Strategy and smart growth.. Our own Federal government through HUD, EPA, and DOT is pushing these policies. As usual, California is on the bleeding edge of the sustainable development movement.Read more ›
The biggest downfall this novel will face is Glenn Beck's name splashed across the top. To those looking for a good, fast-paced read who do take issue with that (despite the fact that it's really Ms. Parke who wrote it), I would advise getting it from your local public library. They probably even have an eBook copy that would allow you to hide from everyone else what you're reading.
Fans of other dystopian novels will be especially remiss to skip over this foray into a world where the government expects everyone to produce energy and babies while consuming as little as possible. Emmeline is a teenager who is one of the last "home-raised" citizens of the Republic. She is one of the last to hear stories of the way things were prior to citizens being relocated into uniform, high-density housing. But she has also been forced into becoming a mother. A mother who has had her baby taken from her because the state believes children are best raised by the government.
Overall, I thought it was a good effort. There are a few rough spots that could have used some more editing, especially toward the end. The ending is typical of the genre, dim but ultimately hopeful. I also had a few issues with the set up of society (namely the fact that there's no way there wouldn't have been audio and video monitoring of people inside their homes). There were a few questions raised that the reader can guess the answer, but because Emmeline never figures it out, there are no definitive answers; however, none of these are major issues.
It is presented as the fiction that it is. It is also presented as a very worst-case extreme of the future. However, it is also grounded in a real UN initiative that is being pushed in various pieces of legislation, from the local to the federal level.Read more ›