Tropic of Kansas
by Christopher Brown
Cover Artist: Getty Images
Review by Mel Jacob
Harper Voyager Trade Paperback / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062563811
Date: 11 July 2017 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The U.S. is in disarray with much of its infrastructure destroyed. A large section between Canada and Washington, D.C. is now lawless and part of the Tropic of Kansas. Small groups struggle to survive and to fight the powers of the tyrannical government in Washington. A foster brother and his sister risk their lives and freedom fighting against the regime in different ways. Survival is the name of the game.
Nine-year-old Sig was left with Tania and her mom when his mother joined the resistance. After a few years, he ran away living on the margins of society. Occasionally, he worked with others smuggling weapons across the Canadian border. When caught and imprisoned, he soon escaped. Eventually, he became legendary for his expertise in prison breaks.
Tania's mother was and is an activist but on a low-key level. Tania managed to get an education, a law degree, and a job working for the Office of Special Investigations in Washington, D.C. monitoring contractors and others. She developed skills in data mining and manipulation. She has a college friend, Odile, whose mother is a rich congresswoman. At Odile's instigation, they visit the White House. There, Tania cannot resist shouting "Tyrant" at the President. They are hustled from the scene and Tania is arrested.
She is given the opportunity to keep her freedom and obtain better treatment for her mother, arrested as a consequence of Tania's actions. She must find and help capture her foster brother, Sig, who has become a symbol of the resistance.
Tania applies all her skills with computers and data manipulation as she strives to save herself and her mother. She discovers how the rebels communicate using outmoded equipment. Torn between the lessons of her childhood and helping the dictatorship which employs her, she must also deal with the horrors of the present system. Sig represents freedom while Tania is beset with society's failings and how to survive without betraying herself and her beliefs.
Brown, a noted short story writer, offers Tropic of Kansas as his first novel. He has created a dysfunctional gritty world where two societies live side by side. One, a civilized life, but with little real freedom. The other, a life on the edge aiming for government overthrow. The novel has a high-kill level as many of the rebels are captured or killed. It ends on a mixed, but hopeful note.