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Part of what gave me that particular expectation was the blog post of hers describing her novel and, quite frankly, her fears of violent men. I can only believe that the book’s protagonist Charley Tennyson is her alter-ego, at least in terms of the depth of her anxiety over “mass shootings.”
However, Tennyson never gives in to the “anti-male” sentiment that many of the other characters embrace and even manages to find love with a man.
Oh, there were flaws to be sure. This is set in a dystopian near future, but the technology is all so perfect and for the most part free. Money is only mentioned once when discussing the activation fees for what is essentially a personal force bubble. Other than that, living in luxurious “havens,” riding around in iCars which carry over your personal settings from your home, and having wrist Surges (think a way amped up smartphone with holographic filming and projecting capacities), seem to be cost free.
The story follows reporter Charley Tennyson who is just going back to work after dealing with the emotional trauma of watching her Dad murdered. She lives in a world where mass shootings and bombings are a pandemic. Public places are shut down and everyone wears a bulletproof vest (ridiculously stored in a hidden ceiling compartment and delivered by bungee cord). To add to the dangerousness of her world, she suffers from an anxiety disorder and probably drinks too much.
Charley stumbles across a story that dovetails into scientific research her Dad was doing for the semi-illegal group called the “Fear Fighters.” As it turns out, for the last several days, there have been no male births at all. That’s tied in with research her Dad and others were involved in; trying to find out why there’s a pandemic of “male-pattern violence.”
That’s an actual term, but in the book’s fictional world, it’s actually a condition listed with the CDC. There’s a lot of running around discussing the inherent flaws in the Y chromosome and how the world would be better off without hyper-violent men.
The tale involves her partnership with best friend and co-worker Marika, the research whiz, but then shifts to an interest in Charley’s new assistant David.
As the investigation into what turns out to be a secret government conspiracy deepens, so does Charley’s and David’s relationship. Unfortunately, Marika is the jealous type and with the prospect of males disappearing in the next hundred years, she even suggests they take their friendship to the romantic level.
After reading Strobel’s blog post, I was ready for an anti-man rant, but it never came. Charley idolized her Dad and falls head over heels for David (who has his own flawed and secret past).
The really interesting thing about the book, and I don’t know if Strobel intended it or not (my guess is “not”), but it struck a conservative and even a libertarian note. The female President of the United States is basically evil, the book admits that all of our news agencies are run by just three mega-corporations, big Pharma is also evil and in cahoots with the government, the Fear Fighters, eventually named as a domestic terror organization, are really the grassroots good guys trying to stop the conspiracy and never does any violence themselves, and so on. The government uses emergency powers to control access to the internet and put words in reporters’ mouths, and paints (white) males as the source of all evils. They even plan to arrest and incarcerate any child found with the defective “warrior gene.”
Actually, it was the government that also created the perfect storm making men even more prone to committing violent action than testosterone could possibly account for, and the “corrective” action is to create a medical condition that stops all male pregnancies.
While not perfect, the first half of the book was a compelling “page turner.” Unfortunately, the book’s second half fizzles. The action slows way down and the ending is anything but climactic. We don’t even see the government’s evil plan overturned and don’t know if it ever is. It’s suggested it will be, but the story terminates before we get anywhere near that conclusion.
The writing is solid enough to make the novel readable to the end, but it was still disappointing.
The author did an afterword and I found out it took her fifteen years to write the novel. No wonder it is the only one listed on her Amazon Author’s page.
I did find out that while the character David believes in God, that faith lay dormant in Charley until she finally starts to pray near the end of the book. In Strobel’s commentary, she thanks “God/Goddess” which tells me we have a different framework for understanding the Almighty.
Do I recommend this book? Well, sort of. I gave it four stars on Amazon and Goodreads instead of three because Strobel is a good writer and did hold my interest through most of the book. I definitely could see portions that she most likely pulled from her own lived experience which helped it seem a little more real.
Sadly, her ending involved so many “coincidental” connections and hidden relationships coming to light that it became ridiculously implausible.
In a June 8th tweet (see above), she asks “Is the future female?” That gets asked in her book on numerous occasions. It’s funny how real life Strobel seems to want to exclude men more than fictional Tennyson seems to. But then, that might be unintentional, too. Why can’t the future be both.
Oh, a final note that popped into my head. Since trans men don’t have male chromosomes, there would be some semblance of “men” in the world should the government’s “evil plan” reach fruition. I wonder how that would work out?