- File Size: 623 KB
- Print Length: 290 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Furious (October 19, 2016)
- Publication Date: October 19, 2016
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B01M6V9KMP
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,107,567 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Burning Down The House (An American Carnage Novel) Kindle Edition
|Length: 290 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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This book is a grim and difficult read at this dark time of a dark year, which is exactly why we need it. Jennings imagines how things might play out over not that many years if political and societal seeds planted now are allowed to flourish. It's an ugly, poisonous crop.
Readers of Jennings' 2014 Kindle Single “No Christmas” will recognize the Abigail sections early in the book. A few later chapters were featured in the recent collection Ted Cruz Smiles and a Baby Dies. Now she has developed the stories and minor characters from those shards into this dystopian mosaic. It's like an Altman movie with a Tarantino aesthetic: a big, diverse cast of characters and a lot of death and destruction. The characters are all well-meaning, hardworking Americans trying to do their best for their families. They are likable and real; you want things to turn out well for them, but there's no chance. Some do better than others for a while, but it can't last long when healthcare is unaffordable, citizenship can be revoked, and civic trust breaks down. Militias, religious extremists, bigotry and hate rule the day. One family's beloved child might kill another family's beloved child, just to survive. The American experiment fails and the whole world pays the price.
As you might guess from the title, Talking Heads songs are slyly referenced throughout, a little sweetener in this bitter drink. Chug it down, meditate on it, and think carefully before you vote.
When I started reading Burning Down the House it was before the election. The possibility of “a tiny-fingered snake oil salesman” being elected President of the United States was still just a bad dream. (Yeah, I'm definitely in the target audience for this book.) By the time I finished, the bad dream had come true. That post-election perspective is the one all readers going forward will be viewing the story from, so that's the one I'll talk about.
Dystopias aren't pretty and Ms. Jennings has done an excellent job of imagining how ugly the country could become if the tiny-fingered tyrant of her story did everything his real life equivalent has implied, threatened, or suggested. A wild ride down the slippery slope later and very few are left happy. There are a lot of characters with different story threads for each and the only thing tying them together is the changes happening in their country. At times this challenged my memory (who is this again? Where did we leave them last?) but I managed.
Luckily I was able to remember that this is fiction. Slippery slope arguments are fallacious. This could never happen, right? Oh my gosh, I hope not.
**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **
Up front, I should say I recieved Burning Down the House as an unpaid review copy.
For me, good dystopian fiction has to do two things: first it has to make me believe; and second it has to make me think. Burning Down the House is all to easy to believe, and it certainly made me think. Not just about the American experience but about what seems to be a world-wide shift to populism.
The story covers America's decline and fall over a period of decades, from a number of viewpoints, and there a number of striking images through the text (I'll never forget the self-immolating woman).
If you've read anything by Evangeline Jennings before, you'll know what to expect. Otherwise, if a version 1984 jointly directed by Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino appeals to you, then this might be your cup of tea. The prose is spare, the story moves fast. It's easy to read, but there are challenging scenarios presented.
So, why not five stars? Two things hold me back: there's a very large cast of characters, with a high turnover; and while I enjoy spare prose, I felt in places there was a lack of description. A few telling details for characters and recurring locations might have made it easier to keep track of who was who. From time-to-time I found myself flicking back, and in these Kindle days that's not as easy as it used to be. I also feel that there were nuances that, as a non-American, I missed, but I think that's probably unavoidable - it's certainly not a fault of the book or the writing - and it didn't spoil my enjoyment of Burning Down the House.
And I really did enjoy this. It also made me think.
Evangeline Jennings‘ gripping dystopian novel takes place in a near future that seems chilling real.
Burning Down The House is part slice -of-life drama, part violent thriller, part satire.
The rich plot is full of sharp twists and turns and the characters are all realistic and sympathetic. The many music references are smartly used and the ending is both brutal and sad. Highly recommended.