Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America

Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America

4.5 4
by Brian Francis Slattery

See All Formats & Editions

From the author of the literary pulp phenomenon Spaceman Blues comes a future history cautionary tale, a heist movie in the style of a hippie novel.

Liberation is a speculation on life in near-future America after the country suffers an economic cataclysm that leads to the resurgence of ghosts of its past such as the human slave trade.


From the author of the literary pulp phenomenon Spaceman Blues comes a future history cautionary tale, a heist movie in the style of a hippie novel.

Liberation is a speculation on life in near-future America after the country suffers an economic cataclysm that leads to the resurgence of ghosts of its past such as the human slave trade. Our heroes are the Slick Six, a group of international criminals who set out to alleviate the worst of these conditions and put America on the road to recovery. Liberation is a story about living down the past, personally and nationally; about being able to laugh at the punch line to the long, dark joke of American history.

Slattery's prose moves seamlessly between present and past, action and memory. With Liberation, he celebrates the resilience and ingenuity of the American spirit.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This sophomore effort from economics editor Slattery (Spaceman Blues) is a heavy-handed fable of a near-future America fallen into economic and social chaos. Marco Angelo Oliveira breaks out of prison, determined to rejoin the Slick Six, his "family" of supercriminals. He meets stiff opposition from the Aardvark, a mob boss who now runs New York City. Meanwhile, the nation has fragmented into squabbling regions, from the New Dominion of Virginia to the New Sioux of the plains; like Marco's gang, they see little reason to reunite. Complex secondary characters such as mob lawyer Jeannette Winderhoek and the less-feted members of the Slick Six somewhat balance the heavily stereotyped Marco and the Aardvark, adding vital color to this glacially slow, backstory-laden tale. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher

“Brian Francis Slattery's dystopian second novel, Liberation has many brilliant ideas, but its depiction of a 21st century revival of slavery is really what burns it into your memory…. it's a book that rewards attention, and you'll find yourself flipping back after you finish it to find the best parts of its off-kilter odyssey and piece together new connections between its huge and memorable cast of characters. It's also a book that gets even better on the second read, as you pick up on stuff and make more of the connections between the characters. Most of all, the book's vision of a post-U.S.A. America will stick with you afterwards, haunting you and maybe thrilling you.” —io9

“A 21st-century New York City novel....with a remarkably light touch and some delicious prose.... Early reviews of Spaceman Blues threw around the names of Pynchon, Doctorow, and Dick as stylistic touchstones. But Slattery should really be considered alongside NYC homeboys like Lethem and Shteyngart, the former for his loving tweaks of vintage pulp, the latter for his sharp immigrant comedy.” —Will Hermes, The Village Voice on Spaceman Blues

“For fans of: the surreal odyssey of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man; Plan 9 from Outer Space.... For all its colorful characters and gonzo thrills, Slattery's debut is first and foremost a moving portrait of Wendell's griefs.” —Entertainment Weekly (Grade: A-) on Spaceman Blues

“One of the most original novels of the year…. The end of the world was never so fun.” —Ain't It Cool News on Spaceman Blues

“The flaming exclamation point that begins every subsection of each chapter is one of the first signs of the intensity and passion that pervades Brian Francis Slattery's debut novel Spaceman Blues....perhaps best summed up as a love song for New York City and for life, with the volume turned up six notches higher than usual.” —Rain Taxi Review of Books

“The book jacket describes Spaceman Blues as a ‘literary retro-pulp science-fiction-mystery-superhero novel,' and it not only lives up to the hype, but may include a genre or two more besides…. The book weaves a mixture of gritty war elements with hardboiled Hammett-like detective mystery, poetic romance reminiscent of Isabel Allende, and science fiction that brings Stanislaw Lem to mind--into something that seems fresh and compelling.” —School Library Journal

Spaceman Blues is a welcome Band-Aid for those still mourning the loss of Kurt Vonnegut and his uniquely wacky, satirical brand of sci-fi. There's also a touch of Paul Auster's flair for genre blending and New York mythologizing.... A strange and whimsical mash note to the city, Slattery's apocalyptome proves that this newcomer is as thoughtful and irreverent as doomsayers come.” —Time Out New York

“What a breathless, mad tornado of words! When it shakes itself awake the earth trembles and the helpless reader is dragged gladly into its light. I haven't had this much fun with a book in years.” —Harlan Ellison® on Spaceman Blues

“It happens only very rarely--you read a book by a new author, and all you can say is ‘wow.' That was the case with Spaceman Blues: ‘Wow.' To say anything more would mean the inevitable descent into cheap clichés--‘hooked by the first paragraph,' ‘dizzying,' ‘a visionary roller-coaster ride,' ‘reminiscent, if anything, of Thomas Pynchon in its scope, its explosive imagination, the swirling, jazzy flow of the prose.' So much can and should be said about Mr. Slattery's debut--but I think I'll just stick with a simple ‘wow'--or if you prefer a visual summation, try an exclamation point on fire.” —Jim Knipfel, author of Slackjaw

“Brian Slattery's Spaceman Blues is brilliant. It's got the edgy paranoia and secret reality plotting of the best of Phil Dick, wrapped inside a contemporary stylistic sensibility that stands proudly against Miéville or Doctorow, with a heavy leavening of Nueva York emigre culture to give the work a distinctly American voice--the brawling, postmillennial, multicultural America of twenty-first century New York. This is the transmogrification of Phillip Roth's New York by way of The Matrix and a double handful of wild-ass street drugs into something all too recognizable.” —Jay Lake, author of Mainspring

Spaceman Blues is a strange new creature: apocalyptic SF with the stylistic pyrotechnics of a beat poet on speed. There is nothing else out there like it, a vaulting, twisted song of decadent and desperate parties, grief and superheroes, sex and memory, and almost incidentally, the end of the world. This book leaves a glowing handprint on the mind which will not soon fade.” —Catherynne M. Valente, author of The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden

Spaceman Blues is a brave, kinetic novel--a heady, original mixture of the surreal and the postmodern. It never stops moving and it never lets up. A spectacular new voice.” —Jeff VanderMeer, World Fantasy Award-winning author of City of Saints and Madmen

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Sold by:
File size:
3 MB

Read an Excerpt

Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America

By Brian Francis Slattery, Liz Gorinsky

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2008 Brian Francis Slattery
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-4080-1


A PRISON SHIP; the resurgence of slavery; life after economic collapse.

The former American prison ship Rosalita has been at sea for six years, and wears its history on its skin. The hull is weak with patches and dents, long streaks of rust that eat the ship's name off the metal; near the prow is a wide, eye-shaped wrinkle from collision, some of the inmates say, with another ship, a derelict clipper. No. A dead mine from World War I. No. The jutting mast of a sunken galleon hanging off a spur of rock at the edge of an abyss, filled with the corpses of slaves, rum and sugar, the stuff that drove the world mad. A narwhal, say others, or no, no, a creature the size of an island that rose beneath the ship one night and dove again, leaving the Rosalita wounded and the ocean churning and swirling around her. All they have to go on are bangs and shudders, screeches across the metal, the sounds of invisible catastrophe.

The ship rises and falls under the glaring subarctic sun; the bow tilts forward and back, growing a pelt of salt and ice that glistens the rails, slicks the deck. Stiffens the American flag above the tower. Two of the flag's stripes are missing; they're part of the patchwork umbrella stabbed into the snow on the deck, cocked away from the sun to part the wind around Maggot Boy Johnson, who lies in his pants and boots on a lawn chair bolted down in front of the bridge, sunglasses over his closed eyes. His shirt is in the snow next to him, folded over three times so he can put the radio on it. Only one speaker works, and it plays nothing but early Frank Zappa. Maggot Boy Johnson hated it at first, but he and Uncle Meat have come to an understanding. He tans into burning while the opening fanfare to "Peaches en Regalia" flows over him, the bugle call for a hippie army that marched at the peak of the American parabola, that moment when physics held its breath to allow levitation, a small reward before the descent. The hippies knew it then, Maggot Boy Johnson thinks; they couldn't build it into words but they could feel it; a floating in the stomach as history shifted direction. They stopped, hey, what's that sound, and knew that the spiny skyscrapers reflected in the river, the chasms of concrete, the wide streets and sidewalks, the power lines cutting into the hills and mountains above missile silos, the highways drawing lines across the blank plains under enormous skies, the pupil of God's eye, would be the ruins that their grandchildren wandered among, the reminders that once there was always water in the faucet, there was electricity all the time, and America was prying off the shackles of its past. The vision opened up to them and winked out again, and those it blinded staggered through their lives unable to see anything else, while the rest of them wondered if they had only dreamed it.

For the first twenty minutes of Maggot Boy Johnson's stay in the sun, there is only the snow melting on the metal, the water sliding underneath the ice to trickle down the stairs, through the hallways and bunks, the galley. But then he can see the water pooling in the hold, nourishing the seeds of vines that strayed onto the ship in Malaysia. In twelve years, when the ship runs aground on the coast of Mozambique, the stones will put a hole in the hull, sun will stream into the dank air, and the vines will crawl out to spill across the sand, fingers joining ship to earth. Hello, Africa; it's Malaysia. With the help of the Vibe, Maggot Boy Johnson can see that the Rosalita will be covered in graffiti by then. He wonders how that paint will get all over the ship; wonders if he'll be around to find out.

Marco Angelo Oliveira jumps out of the sky, lands on the deck without a sound, spear in one hand; he runs his free hand over his slicked-back hair. At first, Maggot Boy Johnson doesn't even know he's there. Marco surveys the gray ocean with a hand angled across his brow, hoping for the first peak of an island, a sliver of shore, but the ocean does not comply. He sighs.

"Are we going home?" Marco says.

"Yes," Maggot Boy Johnson says, without opening his eyes.

"Then why isn't it getting any warmer?"

"It is. You just can't feel it yet. What do you call that thing you're holding?"

"An assegai."

"Ass a what?"

"Are those the warden's sunglasses?" Marco says.

"Yep. But that's nothing. These are Malloy's pants."

Most of the warden — his name is James Patrick Callahan, though the inmates never knew that — is now southwest of Reykjavik at a depth of 4,002 meters, his bones snagged in the rigging of a fishing boat listing to starboard, strands of skin and clothes unfurling into the current. The first amphipods found him by smell, but when they started eating, the sound of the chewing drew more for leagues around; it took the crustaceans weeks to eat the annoyance off his face. He was annoyed going into the water, annoyed even as he drowned. It wasn't that he should die before he had a chance to retire, or see America again, that he shouldn't have gone pulling brine into his lungs. He understood that the sea was a lethal thing; if it couldn't get down your throat, it would take your heat away. They were sailing on mercury, liquid nitrogen, hydrochloric acid, the warden thought, and he accepted it, forgave the ocean, which hadn't asked for it. He would have forgiven the inmates, too, if they were the ones who had tied him to a broken generator, then heaved it over the rail and let him slide along the deck after it, swing through the air, tumble into the water. They were like the sea to him, fatal and unreadable, a surface of changing faces, their calmness roiling into sudden storms, the eye of their fury turned on him.

No, he was annoyed because it was his guards who had tied his ankles, pushed the generator over, as if what was happening on the mainland could excuse it. There were riots in Los Angeles, riots in New York. Mexicans fleeing back across the border. The big factories — the ones with high walls and wired windows that you could drive by at seventy miles an hour, car windows rolled down and a Dead bootleg from 1974 on the stereo, and still be driving by it when Jerry finished his solo — the factories were going under, the workers sitting in their cars in the gigantic parking lots, smoking bad cigarettes, wondering what they were going to do now, while eight miles away on the other side of the compound, a man was clipping a door into the cyclone fence, peeling back the wires to let his family squat in the derelict buildings while he stationed himself on the roof with a rifle and sixty-two bags of salt-and-vinegar potato chips. There were killings out on the Midwestern farms, criminals roaring from town to town, borne on a caravan of rusted cars, a trail of food and gasoline, burning houses, leaving corpses chewed by shotguns in ditches. It was like that for a year, and first they could see it on the television, a newscaster in a yellow jacket standing in the rain, holding a gray microphone under the camera's glare, barking out what he was seeing when the flames behind him were plain enough. Speeches from a nervous president, sitting against the backdrop of a flag in an undisclosed location that the inmates joked was really in Canada. Then, one by one, the television stations stopped working. No news out of Washington at all, as if its mouth had been filled with dirt. The letters stopped coming, the paychecks stopped coming, and the Office of Maritime Penitentiaries couldn't be raised. Another month passed; they hailed other ships asking what was going down. One of the guards said he heard something about how there was no such thing as a dollar anymore. He opened his wallet, pulled out a five, waved it above his dinner in the fluorescence of the mess hall. If this isn't money, then what is it?

"Don't you get it?" the warden said. "America's gone."

"Sure it is, Chief," said Club Malloy. He wasn't the highest-ranking guard, but they all took orders from him anyway. It was the blear in his right eye, his hints that he had the same kind of history that the inmates did; he talked about his wife all the time, but never in the present tense.

"I'm telling you the truth," the warden said.

"The only thing that tells the truth is the dollar," said Club Malloy.

"The dollar doesn't mean anything anymore."

"Well that's too bad for you, then, isn't it."

So the inmates stood in a cluster on the deck while the warden slid off it; they heard him shout when the generator hit the waves, a small, bovine yelp when the water took him in. Then Club Malloy smiled wider and wider; just when it seemed his face couldn't make a bigger grin, the lips stretched a little farther.

We're in huge trouble, Maggot Boy Johnson thought.

That was four years ago. The guards declared martial law, shot the oldest prisoner, seventy-two-year-old Amos Straw, in the back of his head while he was reaching across the table in the mess hall for a salt shaker. Just making a point, Malloy said, though nobody knew what he was trying to say. In almost ten years on the Rosalita — he'd been put away for forgery fifteen years before, sent to Leavenworth, and then, when all the prisons got too crowded, sent out to sea on the new prison ships — Amos had never lost a card game. You could almost beat him at hearts, but at gin rummy he pummeled your ass. Poker was a filthy slaughter.

Four months later, thirty-nine inmates charged the guards' quarters, garroted one of them with a radio antenna before Club Malloy put the revolt down himself with a machine gun he kept next to his bed. He ran into the blocks, sweet and stinking with fresh blood, and shot the first two inmates he saw, strung up the bodies on steel cables on the deck. A warning, he said. We have thousands of bullets. The bodies hung in the sun until the next storm, when a gigantic wave, an exploding mountain of brine and ice, took them down.

The food on the ship dwindled, was traded for knives, cigarettes. Then food was currency. The guards locked the inmates in the hull and talked on deck amongst themselves. They hailed more passing ships, traded off spare parts, fan belts, electric switches, rubber seals. Then they stopped selling things; the inmates could hear one of the guards at the radio trying to hail the same ship a few times, one ship in particular. A conversation about the cargo still being alive. A week went by when everyone started starving. Then at sunrise another ship approached them, a black-and-green freighter flying a flag of a Roman warrior with sword and spear, his foot on the chest of a man sprawled at his feet. A broken crown. Something in crap Latin: Labos te liberat. The inmates read the faces of the crew, knew that look; they'd all had it themselves once, the nervous elation that comes with doing something you've never done before. Committing a new crime.

The guards picked out the five biggest inmates and lined them up in a row while the freighter captain, who had the name DIAMOND SAM stitched in rude letters on the back of his coat, paced in front of them, his eyes moving over the lengths of their bodies. He stopped in front of Piston Beauvoir, car thief, cardsharp, occasional bookie, who until the televisions died still took bets on games, fights, elections, whether it would rain in San Antonio, whether there'd be anchovies with dinner. Even made money on the flash floods in Tennessee.

"Open your mouth."

He did; Diamond Sam jammed two fingers into it, raked his nails against the gums.

"This one's rotten," he said.

But he found the other four whole. James Szspanski, who'd opened his brother's head with a sledgehammer when he found out the man had been sleeping with his wife. He'd played third base for six different teams in the minor leagues, eight years, before a torn ligament put him out. Alan Green, who'd stolen ten thousand in cash from a wire service, shot a security guard who tried to stop him. He said later it was for his daughter. Nobody knew what Henry Holloway had done to be put on board; in seven years, he'd never said a word to anyone, spent his days on the deck doing handstands, eyes closed, legs at a perfect vertical, even as the boat moved beneath him. Carlos Rivera had always said he was innocent, and everyone believed him after he lost a toe in a fight and didn't fight back. Diamond Sam took them all, shook hands with the guards, nodded to his crew, who hauled thirteen crates of potatoes and salted fish onto the deck. And history swung in front of Maggot Boy Johnson, lashed him to its pendulum. There were noises to port, a bell, creaking wood, murmuring voices; then a spectral ship sailed through theirs, the crew in the transparent hold throwing dice against casks of deep brown rum. It ate its own wake back to Massachusetts, sailed back along the malarial coast of the South to Barbados, where the rum turned to molasses, the molasses into sugar, the sugar into cane that men replanted with upward strokes of machetes in hazy green fields. Some of the men were walked backward, stripped naked, lain on dirt floors among corpses. Then all were forced to their feet. Racked by fever, covered in offal, they shuffled backward onto a fat, splintery boat, lay down again in tight rows among flies; then all was dark, dark and screaming until the doors opened again, and they were on Gorée Island off the coast of Dakar, looking out of a stone doorway to the greasy slave ship tilting on the ravenous water, and beyond, the ocean burning blue under a bleaching sky, with no land in sight.

That was when talk began of mutiny aboard the Rosalita, of orchestrating a coup. Inmates approached Maggot Boy Johnson at the ends of dark hallways, in corners of the hull. You better mean what you say about knowing how to drive a ship, they said. At first the strategy was a general uprising, of beating the guards down with the butts of their own rifles. There would be bullet holes and drownings, a man brained against the oven in the galley. They'd torture Club Malloy on the deck, sell the rest of the guards into slavery.

"The uprising is a bad idea," Marco said. "Too many of you will die."

"Better death than slavery," Big Mother said.

Marco just shook his head. "Make some noise tomorrow night. Then let me take care of it."

At midnight everyone rattled the bars of their cells, howled at the ceiling, a gorgeous choir of dissonance in the blackness of the block. They didn't even hear the guards come in. The lamps flashed on for three seconds, flashed off, and in the interval of brightness the inmates could see four guards dead in the middle of the floor, a fifth standing at the light switch in shock, Marco dropping from the ceiling on top of him. Seven minutes later a buzzer the inmates had never heard before screamed across the ship, the locks on their cells shunted open all at once, and they were free. They found the guards holding keys, headphones, toothbrushes, pants half on, shirts half off, lying on their beds, liberated from their lives. Marco wasn't even sweating. So the inmates knew the rumors were true, that Marco really was one of the Slick Six — the ones who pulled off impossible crimes, who stole houses from those who lived in them, drew millions upon millions out of the margin of error in the currency market, spirited jewels and paintings out of vaults and museums and into the black market, where money flew huge and invisible through the ether. They were wanted in over a hundred countries but partied in public in all of them: There was never enough evidence to put them away; their lawyer was too good. But Marco was the one who'd really gotten things done. The man who could hide in your shadow, in a coffee cup. The bringer of violence, who strung a chain of ghosts — men, women, and children — across five continents. The one who'd been sent away so the rest of the Slick Six could go free.

The inmates convened on the deck under a drizzling Antarctic sky, shifted from foot to foot to keep warm.

"What do we do now?" Helga Ramstead said.

"Go back to America," Sylvester Sylvester said.

"There's nothing there anymore," Ramstead said.

"There's just nothing on TV. Don't confuse the two."

"Shut the fuck up."

"I'm just saying there's got to be something there."

"No there doesn't."

They still couldn't see it; it was too much at once. They tried to use the dollars that some of the guards had stowed away in pots and pans after the food ran out, but the traders on other boats put up their hands and frowned. Haven't you heard? they said. Keep it. Show your grandkids. Tell them you remember the states united, and they'll shake their heads and laugh, tell you to stop lying. Then they started listening harder to the news that strained through the radio, crackled on computer screens, seeped out of the casual talk of the crews of other ships. More riots in Chicago and Los Angeles, big ones, over food. A hole in the roof of the Capitol. Millions of people missing. Dying cities, drying prairies. Slaves in the south again. Slaves all over. The Federation of New England.


Excerpted from Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America by Brian Francis Slattery, Liz Gorinsky. Copyright © 2008 Brian Francis Slattery. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Brian Francis Slattery edits public-policy publications dealing mostly with economics and economic issues; he is also an editor of the New Haven Review, a literary journal. When not editing, he plays the fiddle and banjo. He also writes occasional nonfiction pieces about public policy and the arts, mostly for his local alternative weekly. He is the author of one previous novel, Spaceman Blues, and lives just outside of New Haven, Connecticut with his family.

Brian Francis Slattery was born and raised in upstate New York. He is an editor for the U.S. Institute of Peace and the New Haven Review. He is the author of the novels Spaceman Blues, Liberation and Lost Everything, and is also a musician. He lives near New Haven, CT.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
The worst financial crisis to ever hit the United Stated has left the nation divided into regions as the dollar is not even worth the paper it was once printed on. In that downward spiral environs as people starve and health care is non existent for most, Marco Angelo Oliveira escapes from prison after five years on a prison ship. He plans to return to the Slick Six crime family infamous for their criminal cons and capers.

Marco is stunned to learn two of his brethren were ¿sold¿ into slavery as have others who will work for food. He decides the old gang needs to be brought back together to save this region from the abusive rulers. Meanwhile, the New York City mob chieftain the Aardvark wants no opposition to his ruthless rule. He wants Marco and the Slick Six deep six before they can regroup and sends his goons to do the job.

This exciting timely futuristic thriller focuses on the aftermath following the economic collapse of the United States of America into separate region-nations. The story line is fast-paced with a comic book exaggerated confrontation between good and evil. Thus the prime adversaries come across as stereotypes. However, in spite of the two dimensional cast, this is a superb tale that strongly contends a USA collapse will lead to warlords running a back to Adam Smith pure capitalistic economy based on indentured servants and slavery as the working class.

Harriet Klausner