Empire City

Matt Gallagher. Atria, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5011-7779-8
Gallagher’s ambitious but flawed second novel (after Youngblood) imagines a world in which the U.S. won the war in Vietnam. Thirty years after the victory, in 2011, America is dedicated to a state of “Endless Conflict,” as an Army general enthusiastically puts it in a speech. Americans thrill to the real life exploits of the Volunteers, a glorifying misnomer for super-powered warfighters who were accidentally created when an experimental bomb went off during a hostage rescue attempt in Tripoli. Today, Sebastian Rios, the rescued hostage, is a cynical PR flack for Homeland Authority, and Mia Tucker, who’d been the helicopter pilot on the rescue mission, is working on the presidential campaign of retired general Jackie Collins. As the government announces a plan to apply the Volunteers’ “super-strength, teleportation, and super-speed” to fight terrorists, Jean-Jacques Saint-Preux, a Haitian-American, and his fellow Volunteers await their deployment. The three often cross paths where they live in Empire City, a sprawling, militaristic version of New York, and they’re all haunted by unanswered questions about the rescue mission. Gallagher adds some risible (the Nixon Memorial) and poignant (Tupac is still alive) touches to his overburdened world, which, along with the half-hearted comic book aspects, fails to persuade. In the end, this middling novel of superheroes fails to win the day. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/14/2020
Release date: 04/28/2020
Genre: Fiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-79710-374-7
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