After Robert Evans’ Revolution: A Vision of a Shattered Future in the United States (with nudist cyborg super-soldiers) – Blogtown



Tavia Morra, courtesy of ak press

Speculating how the United States will crack is a cottage industry for science fiction writers and political commentators. Ernest Callenbach did it in 1975 with Ecotopia, a novel about the secession of the Pacific Northwest from the rest of the country. In 1981, journalist Joël Garreau argued that the United States was several different nations stitched together in his book, The Nine Nations of North America. Colin Woodard made a very similar argument in his 2012 book, American nationswhich posits that the United States is divided by culture, religion, and political ideology.

After the Revolution (AK Press) is journalist and podcaster Robert Evans’ attempt to slice up the American map. Like Callenbach, Garreau, and Woodard, Evans argues that some parts of the United States are, quite simply, fundamentally different from one another. This supposedly unified nation contains irreconcilable contradictions, and there is much more and pluribus that there is not unum. Unlike these other authors, however, Evans makes his point with cyborgs, drugs, and over-the-top military hardware.

Evans is best known for the popular behind the bastards podcast, where he discusses why various historical and political figures were or are awful people. Given his podcast work and personality, I walked into After the Revolution fearing it’s didactic, the kind of science fiction where the author wants to argue first and tell a story later. Science fiction books like this (looking at you, Heinlein) are hard to read, even when you agree with the author’s point of view.

Fortunately, After the Revolution is not preachy, political science fiction. Most. There’s some eloquent, inelegant prose about war, religion, and government, but for the most part it’s a luscious, fun, action-packed ride where a lot of shit explodes.


Tavia Morra, courtesy of ak press

In Evans’ speculative future of 2070, a new civil war has destroyed the United States as we know it. North America has fragmented into several sub-units. The American Federation, the successor state of the United States, is clearly less powerful than its predecessor. Cascadia is independent, native tribes have taken over the land, Mormons rule Utah, and for some reason Albuquerque is a monarchy.

Texas, where the novel is set, is a bloody battlefield that hosts various factions. There’s a Burning Man-esque mobile party town (home to anarchist cyborgs), the Free City of Austin, and a fundamentalist Christian theocracy that looks like a more well-armed version of The Handmaid’s Tale. Although the war that destroyed the United States is over, the fighting is not over. The remnants of America are determined to destroy each other even more, and zealous theocrats are eager to cleanse the continent.

After the RevolutionThe three main characters are very common and, at first glance, they are a liability for the novel. Manny is an ordinary man who dreams of escaping his war-torn home. Roland is a loner badass with a mysterious past. Sasha is a naive idealist destined to knock the scales off her eyes. These are all characters you’ve seen in all kinds of media before.

However, Evans uses these basic types well, like a talented chef making a well-executed grilled cheese sandwich. It’s basic, but it’s basic well done. Evans also clearly has a political and philosophical point of view, and he expresses this primarily out of empathy for his characters and their experiences. It doesn’t just dump information about the state of its fictional world, it makes it real and felt for the people the reader follows, and it makes the politics of the world come alive more than any kind of sermon. The political situation of After the Revolution does not make sense in the abstract, but for the immediate and personal experience in which the novel places us.

And the book moves. It’s the kind of novel where nudist cyborg super-soldiers ride robot horses to battle bloodthirsty theocrats. The thing explodes. More things explode. Guys kill other guys and even more mayhem ensues. The action works. Other writers have written a lot about America’s internal contradictions, but After the Revolution is unique in its taste.

Robert Evans speaks at Powell’s City of Books tonight, Tuesday, May 3, at 7 p.m.

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