32600759.jpgThis story exists within a dystopian future America, where the central portion of the country is a political and economic wasteland know as the Tropic of Kansas. The story follows Sig and his foster sister Tania in separate narratives through this harrowing tale of a broken America.

Brown paints the picture of this grim future with unrelenting realism. It is a cruel world that feels like the natural evolution of today’s vitriolic political climate. Perhaps because of this, it can be a hard story to read sometimes; the sense that this might be the world our children inherit is depressing, and always close to the surface of the narrative. It is a testament to Brown’s skill as a writer that the story pulls you onward despite this grim milieu. There is no doubt after only a few paragraphs that you are in the hands of a master storyteller.

Sig is a feral youth on the outside of the law. At the story outset he is deported from a Canada standing apart from the chaos in America, and is delivered into a detection center. He escapes and heads south, fighting and fleeing the whole way. Through his eyes we encounter the desperation and ugliness of the dispossessed people on the fringe of this dystopia. Tania, on the other hand, begins the tale as a government investigator, but with no illusions about the compromised nature of the politicians she serves under. As her story progresses, she learns more and more of the ugly innards of this system, and finds herself increasingly ostracized.

As you might guess, the narrative threads of Sig and Tania eventually come together. I won’t add any plot spoilers as to how this all wraps up, but I will say that there is no neat and tidy happy ending. In fact, such an ending would be a poor fit for this tale. This is a clear cautionary tale that has no room for joy. This might be a novel to avoid if you’re prone to depression; however, if you can handle the bleak possibilities of this possible future, you’ll be treated to a gripping tale by a skilled writer.

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