released OUT NOW! 300 pages | Paperback/ebook
Author Michael Tolkin Publisher Grove Press
los angeles can be a brutal place at the best of times; a city where the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow ever wider, and where dreams of fame are more often crushed than fulfilled. Now, imagine it after the apocalypse...
North Korea releases a new chemical agent, NK3, targeted at their Southern neighbours, where it proves far more effective than anticipated. Soon, much of humanity is afflicted with amnesia – and not just of the “I don’t remember my name” variety. Even basic survival skills like remembering to eat are wiped clean. Millions die worldwide.
Four years later, American society has changed radically. Los Angeles is run by those few who have regained some of their ability to function. Skilled survivors have congregated behind the Fence – a wall that encircles the wealthiest parts of the city. Outside the Fence, the remaining “drifters” wander aimlessly, sporadically incinerated by the ruling class.
Michael Tolkin’s novel is both a harrowing future dystopia and an extreme satire on our present, where history and facts can easily be forgotten or erased, and where a small “elite” have the power of life and death over the masses (though there’s a neat flip in the social hierarchy here, with the likes of plumbers and surgeons now in positions of power over the wealthy and useless). It’s frequently absurdist (in one memorable scene Seth, a recent new recruit, is told that he will learn how to become a doctor – by sleeping in an operating theatre), but it’s never far away from nightmare territory, with morality long having been erased too, and violence a routine occurrence.
As with Tolkin’s best known work, the excoriating Hollywood satire The Player (both the novel and the film adaptation, for which he penned the screenplay), NK3 looks at a specific corner of modern America, and finds something very rotten indeed. Will Salmon
The novel is an extreme satire on our present
Tolkin was inspired by Burning Man, the annual festival in the Nevada desert – he has attended five of the last seven.