My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed a lot this novel. Even if it’s an alternate history, where the diverging moment in history is president Reagan’s assassination attempt (which, in Christopher Brown’s novel, succeeded), the whole dystopic evolution of the US in Tropic of Kansas bears scary comparisons with the trends in present American politics. This is America after a decade of trumpism. The signs are already here, the changes for worst are happening right now. Xenophobia running rampant, a personality cult built around the president’s persona, extreme right wing nuts unleashed on the innocent, suppresion of freedom of speech and isolationsim. Sounds familiar, right?
The plot follows Tania, a government agent with an „unhealthy origin” (her mother was an anti-totalitarian activist), and her adoptive brother Sig, long lost to her, who’s a rogue, a terrorist. Blackmailed with her mother’s arrest, Tania must find Sig for her employers. What she will discover while tracking him in the mostly anarchic region of the US called the tropic of Kansas is a vast resistance movement and her own desire to see it succeed.
It’s scaringly realistic, as I said above. It’s also very carefully researched and also well written. Sig and Tania and the secondary characters are alive on the page and the reader ends up rooting for them. The only problem that Christopher Brown’s novel has is its rather rushed conclusion. After spending hundreds of pages in a carefully constructed build-up, the final confrontation between the insurgency and the government is telegraphed in a couple of chapters, as if it were an afterthought.
Hence, what could have been a wonderful book is just a good one, delivering a dire warning in a time when this kind of warning needs to be heard.