Fair notice: I read a final draft of this book on my PC before it was published, and gave a thumbs up to its author, who participates with me in a wannabe-Inklings writers critique group, that meets at the Desert Rose Cafe in Williamsport, Maryland, on the second Saturday of each month. I bought the published version for my Kindle Paperwhite, because I intend to read it again, and share it with my wife. In this novel, we have current events extrapolated into the near future, evocative of the classic 1984, but written in Christian-friendly prose with a fresh plot. I recently finished the C. S. Lewis space trilogy with a Goodreads book review (see that review in Amazon, as well). This novel's antagonists demonstrate similar contempt for their clinically red-lined humanity, as do their counterparts in the 3rd book of that trilogy: "That Hideous Strength." Comparisons aside, this book engages from beginning to end. I'm not a patient reader and fail to complete more than 80% of the novels I start--no matter how far I've read into the book, or how much I paid for it, or who thinks I should read it. 4-stars for any book I read all the way through, and 5-stars if I'm still thinking about it a month later. I don't rate books I haven't finished, and I try to rate all which I have.
I once reviewed "America II – Book 1 – The Reformation" and the author, Linda Rondeau has apparently withdrawn that and republished it under the title "The Fifteenth Article", and has asked me to attach my original review to it. The major difference between this book and the previous one is that this has a better ending and, I gather, is not intended to progress as a series. I have modified my review slightly, but on the whole, the following are my comments on the first book. The genre is probably best described as Christian Dystopian, as the story involves the rebuilding of society after a catastrophic collapse. Such plots invariably have a struggle by the individual for something, but the something tends to reflect something seen as important by the author. Here, the recovery has advanced to the point where America is ruled by a Constitutional Government, which maintains a ruthless rule over its citizens in certain cities, the main one of which is America Prime. Some citizens have defected, essentially an act of treason, and have formed a Network in the outlands, land that has been neglected by the Constitutional Government because it was considered "unusable". The laws in America Prime are repressive, especially towards religion, and tend to be enforced with death as the main punishment, often delivered on the spot by enforcement officers. Life in the outlands is basic.
The book opens with Bridget, the daughter of a Governor, attempting to smuggle religious icons for safe keeping in a desert hideaway, and she is being pursued by a single-minded enforcement officer. We then find that President Schumann is to be euthanized, to be replaced by Edwin Rowlands, a dictatorial person with a passion for utopia, at least his version of it. The book then follows the maneuvers of Rowlands as he sets about to take over the outlands, the way the outlands respond, how some seek religious freedom, and the political chicanery of people in various camps, sometimes in more than one camp. It seems civilization is headed for civil war, particularly after Rowlands' wife, Michael, defects. The political tensions and chicanery grow. The writing style is clear and progresses at a good pace. The author shows clear imagination, and it is definitely an interesting read.
The Fifteenth Article is an incredibly sophisticated thought-experiment about what our future may look like if we continue the path we currently walk. With a sophisticated imagining of a dystopian American government, Rondeau weaves a tale of deep intrigue and suspense. Fans of sci-fi will want to add this to their "to-read" list.