Julian Comstock: a Story of 22nd-Century America by Robert Charles Wilson

This is a clever bit of speculative fiction, set in a dystopian future that looks a lot like our past. This story is presented as a memoir by Adam Hazzard, an ordinary young man from a poor family, who just happened to grow up the best friend of future war hero and president Julian Comstock. Julian is an intellectual, a philosopher, from an important family. He has a lot of big ideas, which Adam doesn’t always understand or care about. But Adam does care about Julian, and is going to follow whatever adventure their friendship takes him on. I love characters like this — bystanders of history, ordinary people who get caught up in great deeds.

Adam is inspired by a certain sort of lowbrow adventure book, which his own narrative lovingly parodies. My dad loves this kind of quasi western boys adventures stories, and I’ll recommend it to him. It is making a critique of our current path towards corporate greed, and moralizing politics, but it never loses sight of the fun of the genre. Adam isn’t interested in the social critique, he cares about the adventure. The politics are there, but you have to do the work yourself, which keeps the book from becoming insufferable.

(a spoiler filled aside: I spent four hundred pages of a four hundred and twelve page book trying to figure out if a main character was intentionally being coded as queer, or if it was wishful thinking. I understand the reasons why this was hidden, it fit the reality of the world, and the information Adam wanted to tell his readers, but still — that’s kinda fucking annoying.)

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