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Chasing Freedom Paperback – January 10, 2016
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Top customer reviews
Set in the near future, “Chasing Freedom” opens in a United States you won't recognize. The cast of characters is richly drawn: Real people. Real passion. Fighting the new government that turned America from the world's greatest nation, the envy of the world, the heart's desire of illegal immigrants, into a place to flee. In the novel, our border problem is that of U.S. citizens escaping into Canada - the new land of opportunity. Even Mexico is doing better than the U.S.: "Long ago, illegal immigration had been moving in the opposite direction, with Mexicans sneaking into the US. … Today, Mexico was a banking haven and a great place to live, assuming one had enough money."
The place to stay *free and alive* is no longer the United States? If that doesn’t sound surreal, picture horse-drawn wagons carrying ex-patriot Americans from the cities (oh, the cities), through Amish country, to Canada. The caravans are guarded by notoriously dangerous “Guides” who are nowhere near as scary as their reputations. That’s all part of the carefully orchestrated propaganda of The Rebels.
Ah, those rebels! For all the flack and lack of respect our video-gaming children get, it’s fun to see a positive spin on this generation. While the most of the adults just get with the program, or get killed or exiled, the teenagers use their gaming and hacking skills to launch a revolution.
It’s no job for slackers. When caught, some of our favorite characters face death or dismemberment in a torture facility. Not everyone comes out alive, but most do. More than one needs a prosthetic hand afteward, and help with PTSD nightmares.
The “Easter Eggs” are fun, and the characters are fun-loving and funny, when they’re not being tortured or separated from their loved ones. Their code name would make sense only if anyone in government surveillance had read the iconic novel that supplies the name Ragnar Danneskjold, a hot Viking-philosopher-pirate. (Nope, not telling you what novel he’s in.) Those caravans to Canada, “Cruz Lines,” were in the story long before a certain politician entered the race to become U.S. President. (I know this because I've been reading this manuscript since it first began as a short story. A chapter at a time, I've seen it unfold, expand, and morph into a novel.)
Revolutions seldom change the world overnight. Years pass (and Fontaine dates each new chapter for our benefit). Our quirky teenage rebels grow up. Two of them have a child together but are forced to let him grow up in safety with another family. Daniel the artist, dismissed as “too soft” by his girlfriend’s father, turns out to be anything but. Chris, who will do whatever it takes to keep his little sister out of foster care, finally reaches legal adult status and escapes the morally degrading system. Randy starts out as a nerd who’d steal to buy that precious commodity, strawberries. Daniel sells a rare and treasured orange – yes, a mere piece of citrus fruit we take for granted – in exchange for something he values more than his own health. Julie, the girl of Randy’s dreams, earns the kind of face- and name-recognition that today’s celebrities get just for “entertainment” value.
There's more, so much more, but even some of the authors I've reviewed have said my reviews are daunting in length.
This novel is a feast of memorable characters, a great theme, a great cause. English is Marina Fontaine’s second language, but nothing in her prose gives that way. Her word economy is enviable. She cuts to the chase -- chasing freedom. Fast paced, funny and heart-rending, spanning decades, but ultimately triumphant, this is a riveting dystopian thriller with fun-loving, vivid characters, the kind who become household names, the way Charlie Brown trusting Lucy with a football is “just fiction” but also a universal truth.
At my blog, I’ll post a longer review with excerpts from the novel – if more than one person should happen to tell me via the “comment” button below that they’d read a longer book review than this. Maybe I just need to form a Discussion group instead – I’ve yet to take advantage of that feature at the bottom of the Amazon review page. Speaking of groups, Marina Fontaine has one over at goodreads. You might have heard of the mysterious Masha99. Her debut novel may very well make her a household name.
Hmm, anyone can create a book discussion group over at goodreads, too. Who'd join me?
The author paints for us a picture of a life that could be ours, mid-21st Century, if some on the left have their way. Ms. Fontaine once lived in the erstwhile Soviet Union, so I assume the resistance struggle she depicts here resembles, to some extent, what she saw during the collapse of the USSR.
Forgive my cultural prejudices, but I was surprised at the overall optimism in a tale spun by a Russian author. And in a dystopian novel, no less! Though the scenario is a dark one, from a free-world perspective, you won't find it dreary at all. Redemptive humanity is on display throughout, and more than a couple romances develop over the course of the read.
One aspect I appreciated was the involvement of so many artistic types in the resistance movement. Historically, artists and intellectuals have been key players in the early stages of most revolutions--regardless of whoever ultimately wins. Certainly they helped get the Bolsheviks primed, and were instrumental in the National Socialists' early successes in Weimar Germany. Stalin targeted them in his first waves of mass murder, because he knew such people would spearhead any resistance movement against the Communists. I've read a lot of dystopian literature, but the artist/intellectual component is usually ignored.
This is a solid debut novel which seems to have been edited well (a real rarity these days), a nice mix of characterization with action, believable dialog, and plenty of dramatic tension.
The writing style honestly reminded me a lot more of classic works like Bradbury than it did a lot of contemporary, more cinematic books, because of the vignette style. It was refreshing to read a story like that which I don't see too often. Marina has great writing talent and it's worth checking out if you like dystopian sci-fi and anti-statist/libertarian ideals.