Another retro review.
This one is from December 20, 2012, and the book itself came to me from the author via LibraryThing.
Review: Total Secession, Adam Connell, 2012.
If you’re wanting Connell’s novel to be a quick bit of hack work to cash in on recent talk in the U.S., post the 2012 presidential election, of states seceding from the Union, one of those stories where our heroes are repeatedly, enthusiastically, and violently tutored in the necessity of secession, you are going to be sadly disappointed.
The secessions this story is really concerned with are the personal ones, the disunions of family and friends.
To be sure, the United States really are breaking up. The reasons, though, are covered in maybe 15 pages all together: disgust with foreign wars, disgust with a corrupt federal government and its alphabet agencies and repressive criminal code and appalling budgets, “the foul word … sewer word” appeal as in foreign aid and justice lacking in federal courts, distress from illegal immigrations, “a government that grew too large to be overseen by its previous incarnation”.
Which brings us to S-Day, the Day of Total Secession when the Union will exist no longer. As part of that transition, all prisoners and illegal aliens not guilty of murder, sexual offenses, or child abuse are being released from Federal prisons. Our story proper starts in Florida, S-Day -11, when convicts Grant and Litz have been released. Grant is a giant of a man, a killer (but not, technically, guilty of murder) with tattoos from all the prison’s major gangs. Grant wants to go north to see his wife and children who he has not seen in 10 years. Litz has another errand in mind – completion of a reunion with the sisters he thinks cheated him out of an inheritance. Given a car and money by a grateful ex-guard and another ex-prisoner Grant saved in a riot, the two set out for Albany.
Determined to prevent Grant’s reunion with his wife are her brothers, Wishful and Valiant. They hire the book’s most interesting character, Harney – one part secretive hit-man, one part publicity hungry bounty hunter. “A populace afraid of reunions, retributions” has created a lot of demand for his work, but he’s willing to accommodate his old clients Val and Wish. Setting out with his wife Pavlova and mistress Little Fritter (to accommodate his frequent need for sex and pills), he gives chase to the two convicts. Throw in some other freed convicts, various state officials, the vengeful and obsessive mother of a man Grant killed, and you have the makings of what would seem to be a crime thriller.
Except Connell doesn’t give us anything so simple. For one thing, the resolution of certain characters’ stories is not presented, not even really hinted at. So, if you want a story with all the plot threads neatly tied off, you will be disappointed. Sometimes a lack of resolution bothers me, but it didn’t here since a main plot is resolved.
This is kind of a psychological novel full of a lot of talk between Litz and Grant and Wish and Val on their respective road trips. (The lack of characteristic dialogue, speech patterns that set one character off from another, was, for me, the novel’s weakest point – though Harney’s expositions are appropriately idiosyncratic.) During the time of the novel a lot of back story is presented. We learn about the crimes and motives of Litz and Grant and their more vicious and callous and self-deceiving sides. And we get a lot of details about Grant’s tattoos. However, Connell manages not to make any of his characters besides Harney totally unlikeable.
And, yes, this is a near future science fiction novel though mostly in the peripheral trappings: electric cars, guns with “patented Facial-Locking Scope and Cooperative Tidal Barrel”, and a European Pestilence that has so decreased the population that headhunters looking for emigrants from the soon to be defunct United States are a major plot element. But the whys and hows and implications of S-Day are never discussed by the main characters, only the minor ones. The major characters are usually too busy conducting – or trying to reverse – their own private S-Days.
This isn’t a novel about the death of a national family. Violent, funny, occasionally appalling, it’s about the death of private families.
Finally, as an aside, this is a self-published novel, and the production values are quite high from an evocative, simple bit of cover art to a book free, as far as I noticed, from any typos.