The state of Maine will never look the same. The New United States of America - NUSA - is emerging from two centuries of environmental catastrophe and social upheaval after an attempt to destroy Halley's comet has gone awry. The psychological aftershocks have played into the hands of a power elite who have used a mythical version of the old United States to build a dictatorship disguised as democracy. NUSA is dependent on new technology unearthed by teams of specialists. One such team is sent into the northeastern Zone, beyond the borders of accepted civilization - into central Maine. With discovery comes the risk of truth, love and betrayal in the name of patriotism, in an unfolding romance in the Woodland of Weir.
Even Mainers beyond the denizens of central Maine will enjoy the humorous undercurrent of this story of a fake civilization finding reality along the remains of Route 201 from Skowhegan north, into the Woodland of Weir, over 200 years from today...
On a more serious note, based on the author's experience of everyday life behind the Iron Curtain, this novel picks up where Brave New World and 1984 leave off, focusing in part on the evil that resides in the seemingly good fellow who is just trying to get by and be a part of ordinary society. When that everyday life is challenged, the various characters emerge for what they really are. Some fall in love while others disintegrate, and some succeed in achieving power under the illusion of the New United States. No one will miss the contemporary issues since 9/11, but this is more than that.
Dejevsky's Russian literary style achieves these themes involving character resilience and disintegration, illusion and reality in everyday life, by continuously allowing his plot to be stolen away from its apparent goal as the expedition progresses into Maine. This gives the story an increasingly definite silence that settles ominously like a huge unspoken word.
This evocative silence is surely one of the novel's main strengths. The apparent simplicity of the tale, immediately accessible, obtains depths as we discover that our "good fellows" are characters that really need to be exposed in literature more often. Such exposure of one who "goes along to get along" in society is something too many novelists shy away from, as though hiding in their plots.
Some of Dejevsky's characters are individual extensions of everything wrong with the social fabric of NUSA, as it unravels and frays beyond its borders. So the novel is wonderfully consistent in leaving the sense of incompleteness, "stated and not yet finished - a maelstrom of ideas and potential..." to quote Prof. Christopher Pike, Russian language/literature specialist and Deputy Director of Academic Affairs at Keele University.
The whole horror of such quiet and "sensible" characters is in what they would leave out of the report to their superiors, for example. The theme of things unsaid is one of the most eloquent aspects of the work, told as a beautifully simple tale. It's a light touch that strikes deeply and carries this continuing dialogue of the "Brave New World" novels to a new level by probing this seeming innocuousness and its relationships in this way. It is most interesting to discover how the submerged ebullience of the Russian factor assists in the portrayal.
Another curiosity: The author's international background gives the novel a cultural milieu that is genuinely alien enough to be a prophetic echo of a possible future after two centuries of cultural collapse! There is a joke somewhere in here, I think. Though he is from central Maine, Dejevsky is definitely also "from away." The international brew works convincingly in the context of the science fiction. How different must Americans have sounded 200 years ago!
To conclude with an excerpt from Edgar Allen Poe:
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.
Here once, through an alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul-
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
NUSA's leaders use Poe's poetry to brand the Northeast as a region to fear. The poet's theme of the soul approaching is turned by Dejevsky back on the illusions of a usurping dictatorship, posturing in the guise of authenticity.
From the Author:
I have especially liked fiction which is set in parallel reality or alternative history. This allows an exercise in controlled imagination, which may wander away from our shared reality, but never far enough to substitute it with pure invention. To put it another way, such settings are gradations of improbability - not escape into impossibility! Maybe such settings are like dreams - instinctive variations on reality - not efforts of the will determined to create substitutes!
Writers whom I've admired in this context are John Phinney, Keith Roberts, Robert Harris, and Tom Barnard. They evoke New York City of the late 19th century, an England where the Counter-Reformation triumphed, a Europe where the Nazis triumphed and rule from a ghostly retreat, and a South Africa disintegrating between 1994 and 2004. There are also unknown classics, like the Russian writer Korolenko who toured America in the late 19th century, and wrote a novel which blew a seering whistle on the American Dream.
Philosophically speaking, these alternative scenarios are valid if you agree with thinkers who hint that we live in the past and the future - the present is but a knife-edge from which we lean forwards or backwards according to inner volition. Finally, these scenarios are an excellent device for cajoling, prodding or nudging the reader in a direction that he might otherwise balk at. As is, the exotica of the alternative context will get him to go an extra mile or two - before he realizes that his mind has traveled on...
|Publisher:||Polar Bear & Company|
|Product dimensions:||6.18(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.46(d)|