- Paperback: 130 pages
- Publisher: Wildside Press (February 5, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1557429200
- ISBN-13: 978-1557429209
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,961,526 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Null-ABC Paperback – February 5, 2007
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Having read many of Pipers works I am somewhat baffled about the man himself. His works are excellent examples of allegory, occasionally drifting into outright satire, but never dull. In the midst of all of his harping about the failures of politics and society, particularly democracies, he usually tells a rather good story. Such is the case with Null-ABC, the story is good, the questions linger on. Piper tells his tale at a pace while skewering society, as he sees it, as he goes along. In Piper's vision, mankind is always on the brink of barbarism, one step away from the precipice, and Piper is always ready to push him over that edge. Piper seems to value honesty and integrity as only marginal virtues; strength of character, as defined by dedication to purpose, and the willingness to sacrifice anything to attain, or maintain, power, seems to be the real virtue he esteems. His stories are certainly not peopled with characters filled with altruistic yearnings or those striving for a higher purpose. The more of his works I read, the more convinced I become that he was a deeply troubled, cynical man, he did commit suicide. He seems to share with Ayn Rand that inability to recognize that good exists within humanity; that there exists within us any inherent moral compass; that only greed, fear, or favor, really drives us; that we cannot actually govern ourselves. Piper's overall tone tends to be that everyone is out for themselves and devil take the hindmost. In any case, he was certainly a talented writer and his stories not only entertain us, they force us to think. Perhaps that is the essential element of his work. that you have to take him seriously in order to enjoy his writing.
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Though the synopsis above may give the impression of a serious or heavy book like Fahrenheit 451, for the most part Null-ABC is handled in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. Senator Chester Pelton, an illiterate department store owner, is running for reelection under the Radical-Socialist Party, on the platform of “Put the Literates in their place! Our servants, not our masters!” His opponent from the Independent-Conservative party will do anything to defeat him, including resorting to deception and violence. In this future era, each party employs an army of stormtroopers. Even the department stores are built like fortresses, protected by their contingent of armed soldiers. Each party has spies in the other’s camp, and each has their own factional conflicts to deal with. Piper and McGuire introduce so many characters, it’s hard to tell them all apart or keep track of who is fighting for which side or what agenda. Frankly, after a while I just stopped caring.
This is the second joint effort I’ve read by Piper and McGuire, the other being Lone Star Planet. Both books are political satires, but each primarily uses their political ideas as a set up for ballistic mayhem. I’m not sure what exactly inspired the collaboration between Piper and McGuire, but I’m guessing they were both gun nuts. As the story goes on, the ideological struggle between Literates and Illiterates fades into the background, in favor of Die Hard in a department store. Nevertheless, like any Piper book, this one does have its merits. It’s amazing how the anti-intellectualism depicted in the story presages the revolt against book learnin’ that we saw in the two George W. Bush campaigns. It’s interesting, however, that here it’s the leftist party that most strongly opposes literacy. Another subject on which the book is remarkably prescient is that of weapons in our public schools. Back in the ‘50s Piper and McGuire probably thought they were being cheekily over-the-top with their comments about classroom massacres. Unfortunately recent headlines have proven them not so farfetched.
The idea of a society divided by literacy is a provocative one, but this shoot-’em-up story just doesn’t do it justice. After a few thoughtful notions and a couple of halfhearted chuckles, it devolves into a rather confusing mess. It’s not terrible by pulp fiction standards, but definitely not Piper’s best. In general, his solo work is far superior.