Review: “Flashback” by Dan Simmons


9432902Flashback by Dan Simmons. Back Bay Books. 550 pages.

This book is almost perfect. Almost. I love the way Simmons paints a not-too-distant America that’s been destroyed in the shadow of Flashback, a new and powerful drug that grants its user perfect recall of any memory you desire. As you can imagine, such a drug would be highly addictive, and at first the book shows a society caught in the grip of this drug and the result that everything else in America has come to a screeching halt. It’s dystopia in its worst form.

But this is where the author loses me. He starts off by blaming the woes of this new America on Flashback, but as you read on, the blame shifts to not one, but all of the policies of a liberal government in Washington. Policies regarding Israel, national health care, taxes and welfare, the military, and a long familiar list seem to result in the United States becoming a fragmented, partly occupied country. Europe is no more, replaced by the Global Caliphate, the world unification of Islam that is also responsible for the destruction of Israel. The American Southwest is under dispute between forces from Nuevo Mexico and the Republic of Texas. And one of America’s few allies, Japan, is hiring all of America’s young people to go fight in a proxy war in China.

In all of this craziness, the story is really about one man, Nick Bottom, a former police detective who has lost his job because of his addiction to Flashback after the death of his wife. He is hired by a Japanese businessman to determine who murdered his son six years ago. And that’s what makes the story work. Bottom wades through this world as if he belongs, letting us become familiar with it on the fly, and slowly gain our own understanding about who is who, and what works and why.

It’s a good murder mystery, and it’s set in a fascinating world, one that Simmons does an excellent job creating and selling. And if you believe all the causes for what happens, then the world he created is plausible. But even though he denies that he had any political agenda in writing this book, it seems too convenient to me that all of the causes he lists are ones that can be found in the current liberal administration. That bothers me.

I give the book four stars out of five.

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One thought on “Review: “Flashback” by Dan Simmons

  1. It also sounds a bit islamaphobic to me too. It digs deep into the fear of Islamic extremists taking over. It’s a bit ironic when the drug of the book deals with an addiction to memories of the past, which seems like a very conservative problem to me.

    The book might be well written and an interesting story, but I wonder if I would be able to stomach all that political stuff.

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