Land O'Goshen

Charles McNair, Author
Charles McNair, Author St. Martin's Press $20.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-312-11296-7
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If Faulkner had tried his hand at science fiction, the result might have sounded much like this energetic first novel. The unlikely futuristic setting is backwoods Alabama at a time when the country is ravaged and ruled by fundamentalist Christian soldiers. Red-haired, rambunctious Buddy, a 14-year-old orphan, narrates this story of his life while hiding out in an ancient Indian burial mound on the outskirts of the town of Goshen. Costumed as a creature he calls Sack, Buddy terrorizes the countryside as the ``Wild Thang,'' hoping that his mythological monster will undermine the Christian tyranny. While McNair's prose is fresh and often resonates with the homespun poetry of his naive hero, the first-person narrative limits our experience of the future world Buddy lives in. Although we learn interesting details (milk is the only beverage served at honkytonks like the Bob-A-Lu on Highway 31, gospel groups with names like The Larks of the Lord tour the countryside), Buddy does not tell us how the fighting started, how much of the country is in Christian Soldier hands or how a religious fascist from Chippalee, Ala., started a second Civil War in the United States of America. Still, Buddy is marvelous to listen to, and his fresh young voice hints at true potential in its author. (Nov.)
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