cover image Halcyon


Elliot Ackerman. Knopf, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-32162-1

In this thought-provoking alternate history from Ackerman (2034), Bill Clinton resigns after his 1998 impeachment and Al Gore, as president, funds genetic research on human resurrection. Robert Ableson, a prominent attorney, is a successful test case of the Lazarus treatment, having been brought back to life after dying from pneumonia. The narrator, historian Martin Neumann, has been living in a cottage on Ableson’s estate while working on a book about the Civil War. The genetic revolution coincides with a movement to remove Confederate monuments, which bothers Neumann and raises questions for him about how to best understand the past. Neumann also bemoans the country’s “plague of polarization” that persists despite Gore’s decisive action after the 9/11 attacks. George W. Bush is again nominated to run against Gore in 2004, and Bush’s platform includes eliminating Gore’s resurrectionist research. Meanwhile, with Gore’s reelection hanging in the balance, Ableson struggles to adjust to his new lease on life, threatening to undermine Lazarus’s viability. Ableson also surprises Neumann by scheming to squash a student petition to remove a Confederate monument with some lawyerly tricks. Though the monument debates feel well-worn, Ackerman is great at probing the scientific ethics of resurrection. This visionary tale is worth a look. Agent: P.J. Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (May)