The Lost Cause by Cory Doctorow

This was very strange book. I read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, which I enjoyed a lot, and I expected that the Lost Cause would follow in a similar vein: a story of future society which is striving to better itself. … Sounds nice. But as we quickly find out in The Lost Cause, not everyone shares the same idea as to what constitutes better.

In a fairly non-specific future, and following the death of his parents in a Canadian epedemic, Brooks Palazzo is shippped down to Burbank to be raised (if you can call it that) by his MAGA-fanatical grandfather. While Brooks is growing up, America is changing; government policy is driven by the burgeoning refugee crisis (parts of the United States are submerged underwater), food shortages and climate change. The world is making progress to stopping it from getting worse, though it’s probably too late to dial it back to any significant degree. Still, Brooks is part of a new generation that doesn’t fear the future.

And they’ve banned firearms.

As you can imagine, this has not gone down well with everyone, which is why, following the death of his grandfather, Brookes discovers a cache of automatic weapons under the floorboards of his home.

So while Brooks has to navigate his late teens, figuring out where to hide the guns and getting involved with rebuilding the planet, and homes for an influx of refugees, he finds himself at loggerheads with his grandfather’s old MAGA friends, who take great pains to warn him that a reckoning’s a’coming … and he’s standing on the wrong side.

Yeah, it’s a great book, though I suspect you have to share the author’s politics to get as much enjoyment out of it as I did. It’s finally crafted, and carefully written from a teenager’s viewpont, with all the angst and uncertainty that goes with it. The prose is excellent, and the dialogue is matches the characters perfectly. Now, when you decide that you’re firmly against the extreme right-wing, it would be very easy to paint the antagonists as gun-mad, knuckle-dragging maniacs –and yes, according to the author, they pretty much are. But at the same time, he does a remarkable job of explaining their position from a less-than-neutral point of view. Yes, they want ‘market-driven’ solutions for the climate crisis, but they genuinely believe that what they want is the best for the country.

He makes a interesting point near the end of the book. The MAGA’s see America as a lifeboat. Climate disaster is inevitable, but if they keep taking on refugees from everywhere, then the lifeboat will sink – and everyone will be lost. So to them, the way forward is to keep refugees out.

Well, it’s a point of view, I suppose.

If you lean more towards the left, then you’ll get along fine with The Lost Cause. If you’re not, then you probably won’t. What did I get from it? Well, even if I disagree with the right wing, having read it, I have a better understanding of where they’re coming from, even if I still think they’re wrong.

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