Acclaimed SF author Slattery's newest (after Liberation) chronicles two men's journey up the Susquehanna River and through an epically violent dystopian America. Sunny Jim and his friend Reverend Bauxite embark on their quest to locate Sunny Jim's lost son and wife before a nebulous, threatening storm ("the Big One") overtakes them. The ambiguity of the impending destruction is reminiscent of the calamity that preceded Cormac McCarthy's The Road, but Slattery's stream-of-consciousness style doesn't lend itself to effective pacing or moderation—death stains page after page, and the despair is so relentless it becomes uninteresting. Though there are moments of somber poetry (e.g., "the last echoes of voices all came together in a fading thrum"), the novel ultimately fails to do what McCarthy did so well—to infuse a familiar landscape with enough light so the darkness stands out in relief. Slattery's dystopian U.S. is so bleak and heavy-handedly tragic, readers will likely tire of the trip long before the riverhead. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/07/2012 Release date: 04/01/2012 Genre: Fiction
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