on July 19, 2012 :
One of the things that annoys me about most dystopias is the way they usually just start from a blank slate. They'll wipe out everybody on the planet except for a handful of white, english-speaking young people and take it from there. Often, the back story of 'how we got there' is treated pretty lightly, leaping right over the realities of the struggles and the suffering that had to occur, but it simply isn't that easy to get from here to there. Even the Black Death killed only about a third of the population of Europe, and those who died suffered horribly while those who survived were devastated in many ways. There's no great 'survival of the fittest', 'uberman-libertarian' stuff going on. It's miserable and hard and there are no shortcuts through it.
If you want to know what dystopias are really like in this world, you need look no farther than countries in the midst of civil war. In such conditions, the lowest of the low are kicked the hardest while the strong dominate with ferocity and terror, and they, the strong, are also the rich, meaning those who are rich now, not you or me in our Horatio Alger fantasies. The rest of the people, the ninety nine percent as it were, are those who are going to feel the pain. The only way out for them is to band together and fight, but such unity is difficult to come by and the fight is often to the death. Divide and conquer is a proven ruling methodology, and so is outright brutality. You can witness the former first hand right now through the phony 'red states' versus 'blue states' in the USA, when conditions are not even so bad, and the latter, as of this writing, in places like Syria.
Imagine, then, that the current trends towards greater inequality and higher base levels of unemployment and permanent underemployment of the youth continue on the course they're on now. The next Great Depression is going to look different from the last, but who wants to think about it? We don't see it in our fiction or in our films. We'd rather blow right past all this reality stuff and get to the wild primordial wilderness. But somebody's got to tell it like it is, or rather, how it could be. We've relied in the past on books like this - "1984", for example, or "A Handmaid's Tale", or "It Can't Happen Here". They are rare enough, but stories that reflect the way we're headed as in a truth-telling mirror are often startling and stunning. "Blue Tent" is like this.
It's a powerful story, one that I felt in the pit of my stomach as I got to the end. The characters are vivid and more than believable, as are the settings and events. This is no "do-over dystopia". It's a real one. Highly recommended.
(review of free book)