Marco De Booij checks out two intriguing books— one that deals with the future and the other, a turbulent past
by Dan Simmons
600pp / Reagan Arthur Books
EVERYONE has memories that they cherish and fall back on a past moment of happiness or thrill. Would it not be great if you could relive those memories as they happened whenever you wanted?
In Dan Simmons’ latest novel Flashback, that is exactly what 85 per cent of the American population is addicted to. He paints a bleak picture of the world 20 years from now. The United States is no longer a superpower and most of the natural resources and services are only available to the rich. Its population is hooked on the Flashback drug.
In this world, we find ex-cop Nick Bottom, who succumbed to the Flashback drug after his wife died in an accident. Before he lost his job as a police officer, he was working on the murder of the son of a powerful Japanese tycoon. The case was unsolved, and later, Bottom is contracted to find the murderer.
He reconnects with his alienated son and father-in-law while getting closer to unravelling the murder.
Flashback is a dystopian novel like Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s Brave New World. You might not agree with the future that is painted or with some of the right wing comments that are sprinkled here and there but it is hard to put the book down.
Simmons is a master storyteller who mixes the science fiction and thriller genres exquisitely and effortlessly. The characters and the world they live in are very believable and the storyline is captivating from the beginning.
Flashback is without doubt a must-read.
The Dream of the Celt
by Mario Vargas Llosa
416pp / Faber & Faber(UK)
ROGER Casement’s life and subsequent death at the gallows after being convicted of treason by the British is perhaps not well known but is definitely well-documented.
Early in his career, Casement was sent as a British Consul to the African Congo to report on the cruel treatment of the natives by the militia of King Leopold of Belgium. Once back in Europe, his report brought him fame and led to a new assignment in the South American Amazon. Here he exposed unscrupulous rubber barons enslaving the indigenous tribes.
After leaving the diplomatic service, Casement takes up the cause of his native Ireland and becomes alienated from the British Government. He ends up in Germany where he unsuccessfully tries to set up an Irish regiment to fight on the side of the Germans. Just prior to the Irish Easter revolt he lands at the Irish coast by means of a submarine and is arrested, tried for treason and consequently executed in 1916.
Master storyteller Mario Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian writer, journalist, politician and Nobel Prize winner for literature in 2010, brings Robert Casement back to life. Vargas Llosa alternates between Casement awaiting execution in his cell in 1916 and his earlier life. This is at first confusing but by the time the story reaches the Congo, Vargas Llosa manages to capture the reader with his vivid images of the horror seen by Casement.
Vargas Llosa paints a picture of a man who is tortured by the cruelty he sees around him and at the same time, struggling, with his sexuality and physical health. In his typical no-nonsense writing style, Vargas Llosa narrates the Casement’s journey — as a naive young man to a more cynical and misguided Irish nationalist.
The Dream of the Celt is maybe not Vargas Llosa’s best work but it is an honest and fitting tribute to an unsung Irish hero and is worth the time it takes to read the 400 pages.