This is a book review of Rfreed’s novel ‘9/12/2001.’ Full disclosure: Rfreed and I have both published prolifically here at Glossy News.
The novel has been serialized, whether as a whole or in part, at Glossy News AND Neocon Surveillance. Eventually, there will be two full serials of this interesting work.
Rfreed’s 9/12/2001, like so many speculative fiction and alternate history novels, can be boiled down to one clean and simple (if also staggeringly vast) question and thought experiment:
What if President Bush had actually been killed on 9/11?
It’s an intriguing counterfactual scenario. As the novel unfolds what (to my mind) is an initially slow-boiling but increasingly exciting narrative of empty cynicism and skullduggery, it becomes clear that after 9/11, the world will never be the same again.
‘Dick Cheney’ becomes President of the USA in the stead of Bush.
Some of you may already have an inkling of what follows…
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s rather difficult to say which is worse: the reality of what has happened in our own ‘real’ world, or the disconcertingly plausible events Rfreed lays before the readers? What is fairly clear, however, is that the mean-spirited opportunism and petty arrogance of the fictional ‘Cheney’ persona or trope is strongly reminiscent of a certain kind of career politician encountered commonly enough in pretty much every country in the world today, bar none!
Thus, as the novel proceeds, ‘Dick Cheney’ makes sure to ramp up the rhetoric.
But he also spares no effort in ramping up the intrigue! Bombing, plotting, violently threatening his myriad enemies, whether perceived or real (no giddy ‘red-liner’ he!)… no window of opportunity is left ungazed and unleapt-through.
Yet at the same time, the novel’s prose style has a certain spareness and subtlety which is not uncommon in US literature, but which is certainly also far from unpleasing. Rather than making the most of every career politician’s ‘carpe diem’ moment of glory, Rfreed resists plunging into the suffocating bathos and rhetorical extravagance which would no doubt be a perennial temptation to even the most soberly self-restrained of novelists.
Rfreed’s prose style can thus be considered rather non-interventionist in style. The narrator uses the ‘soft power’ of innuendo and symbolism more than the ‘hard power’ of bacchanalian revelry. This being so, Rfreed’s novel (perhaps one that is haunted by the spectre of an inadequately realized America Dream?) is a literary work which can, in a sense, be considered implicitly nostalgic; almost elegiac.
And yet, it is not a work of fantasy, but rather, a work of speculative fiction that is very much of this Earth.
Or, at least, of a world very like our own.
However, perhaps 9/12/2001 is saved from the tempting fate of a futile linear backward look, of mere Arcadian romanticism, by the sense of ahistorical doom that pervades the novel. But even so, 9/12/2001 does not lay down the law. There is no dogmatic presupposition that history is just ‘one damned thing after another!’ However, there is certainly an air of pessimism pervading the novel.
Whether the pessimism in this novel (and indeed the recent similarly pessimistic trends of war fatigue and civic frustration in the USA and elsewhere) will merely lead to idle ennui and quietism, or whether, by fairly obvious contrast, it will inspire a renewed critical anti-war activism across the entire political spectrum, remains to be seen.