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Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America by Robert Charles Wilson
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765319715
Date: 23 June 2009 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Robert Charles Wilson's Home Page / Show Official Info /

After the fall, America is transformed into something that modern Americans could never imagine. In the 22nd Century the oil economy is gone as well as the technology that came with it. The fall of civilization brought death, plague, and the return to a feudal way of life. This feudal system still is nominally lead by the President, but presidents are elected in sham elections. The Senate is hereditary. Power is kept in the hands of a few powerful families.

This novel revolves around the life of a scion of the Comstock family. Julian Comstock is the Nephew of the current president. His uncle Deklan fears a powerful rival. To keep control he had his brother killed because he was too powerful. Fearing a similar fate for Julian, he is sent to the back ends of nowhere where he meets Adam Hazzard, a boy who becomes his boon companion.

After escaping from a draft crew Julian, Adam, and Sam, Julianís tutor, end up being caught by another draft party. Using assumed names, they end up going to war. While fighting, Adam begins to write about what he knows and sees. He wants to become an adventure author and writes about the war to gain experience. His embellished practice pieces create a stir and bring notoriety to Julianís assumed name.

But fame and fortune can be fleeting and the pressure of leadership can be too much. Julianís fate will come to him just as he achieves a life goal while failing another. He wants to better peopleís lives and free them from the chains of tradition.

The story is told from Adamís perspective. During the course of it he spends a lot of time dispelling the legend that has grown up around Julian. This is an interesting technique. The reader is assumed to be very knowledgeable of Julianís life, but the story weaves out a little at a time, filling in the pieces while also giving the embellished tale.

I wasnít completely sure of this format at first. I was drawn to the dystopia future setting. By the end I was rushing to the finish to see how things turned out. Although it is apparent that things wonít go well early on, the ultimate downfall is appropriate. The people of this future are products of the world that evolved. It is easy to say that it could never happen to the United States, but you never know.

There is a little bit of A Canticle for Leibowitz feel to this novel. Religion plays a big role for people in both worlds. The church is the source and keeper of knowledge. In some ways it can also be the impediment to increasing knowledge. Fanís of Millerís work should find something here to enjoy.

This is the first novel Of Wilsonís that I have read. The first person perspective takes time to get used to but is worth it once you do. Go into the future and see a world gone wrong.

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