Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Plain Of Bitter Honey by Alan Chin

Reviewer: Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books, June 2013
Pages: 225

Bravo … 5 stars out of 5

Take a look at America in the year 2055. The fundamentalist Christians have taken over, and have brought government corruption to a frightening level. Banks failed, farms stopped producing, free enterprise no longer existed, and inflation made food and all goods a luxury. Rich people fled the United States in droves, until the government began to forbid it. Poor people, along with racial and religious minorities, and anyone gay or lesbian, were banished to guarded "slums" located in various locations, including what used to be The Castro in San Francisco. Most Americans felt powerless to do anything but comply, with the exception of a silent group of resistance fighters, which the government spent countless time and resources to try to destroy.

It is in this context that we meet Aaron Swann, a longtime resistance fighter, and his twin brother, Hayden. Hayden is gay, a lot less militant, but admires the work his brother does, and worries about him. When the government forces ambush Aaron's group, while Hayden was visiting, he takes off on his motorcycle to divert the attention of the attackers, and ends up in jail, where they believe he is Aaron. Aaron and his supporters vow to break Hayden out of jail, and then they can all retreat north along the coast, to a secret hideout of the resistance known as The Plain of Bitter Honey. The trip won't be easy, with the government monitoring their every move with a secret tracking device. They'll also need to contend with the Caliban, a rogue group of fierce cannibalistic fighters who control most of the land north of the Bay Area.

I've said in the past that Alan Chin is my favorite author, and that is still the case with this new book. It is best described as a sci-fi/speculative/political novel, so unlike any of his previous works I have seen, and he handles the genre with mastery. The story is action-packed, well-constructed and expertly told, with a diverse, developed cast of gay and straight characters working together in situations that risks not only their lives, but perhaps the future of this country. Bravo … five stars out of five.

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