by Karen East
Archway Publishing

"We are at the mercy of Homeland Security and the major corporations that control the government."

Janet Ryan, a journalist for the Minneapolis Herald, lives in an America that has changed vastly since the worldwide terrorist attacks of 2020. The government orders and controls life, with the Department of Homeland Security having vast power over citizens. In the twenty years since the attack, people have been relocated to gated communities, and their movements within the country are severely restricted. Pollution is so bad the ozone has been destroyed, with only remnants left to migrate above a scorched earth that produces no vegetation. People watch The Weather Channel each morning to know what strength mask is needed for the day. Food consists of tasteless imitations of the American diet. Those who fail to follow the rules are placed on security watch by Homeland Security, and disappearances are common. At age fifty-five, Americans are placed in homes where they are subjected to experiments. Though Janet was taught by her parents about how things had changed in America, she is the product of an environment that uses fear to keep citizens under control.

When Janet runs into her old friend Sally Marshall, she is thrown into an unexpected situation. Sally is part of a group that wishes to revolt against the strong-armed government. She proposes that Janet go to the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation in Wisconsin to interview Old Woman, a dissident who is to tell her the true history of the United States. The assignment is not without great danger, as Homeland Security tracks every citizen, and it is illegal for Janet to leave her restricted neighborhood without permission. When she meets with her contact, Antoine, whose home she is to visit, Homeland Security places them both on level-one security, making the trip even more dangerous. Yet, Janet is intrigued and agrees to go to the reservation to meet with Old Woman and spend a week learning the ways of the Anishinaabe. She brings back recordings of Old Woman’s stories to Antoine and others who wish to overthrow the government. Janet and the group are in danger of being arrested and killed unless they make the dangerous escape to Canada or the reservation.

East, who worked with Midwestern tribes for nineteen years, uses her experiences to create a fascinating dystopian novel. Her depiction of life in the United States is horrific. The land of the free and brave is crushed under the thumb of a government that rewrites history books and controls every aspect of life. Citizens live in fear of terrorism from both foreign attacks and their own government. Reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World, the author creates a world where individual freedoms are non-existent. Yet, the book is ultimately about hope. For example, the protagonist learns from her trip to visit Old Woman that there is a better way to live. The people of the reservation, having returned to the old ways, have fresh food and air. More importantly, they are willing to accept within their community those who wish to escape the iron grip of Homeland Security. The novel offers an intriguing glimpse into the culture of the Anishinaabe. It tells of their respect for nature, dreams, and the spirits of their ancestors. It is also a wonderful statement of the generosity of these people to those whose ancestors treated them as savages. The book is beautifully written, with East exploring the Anishinaabe way of life in a unique work that marries science fiction and philosophy.

Return to USR Home