Monday, May 19, 2008
Rash by Peter Hautman
It is the latter part of the 21st century and Bo Marsten is living in the USSA (United Safer States of America). The society has change into one where it is better to be safe than free. One needs a helmet to take a walk, 50 pounds of pads and protective equipment to run a track race, and french fries and beer are outlawed as are body piercings and tatoos. The rules are so stringent - 3 strikes and you are out that more than a quarter of the population are serving time in penal camps. Clearly the camps are what makes the economy run. So when Bo is accused of afflicting his classmates with a rash after he lost his temper and stopped taking his Ritalin-like medicine that teens must take, he is sent to a prison camp in the tundra of Canada. The camp, surrounded by polar bears, is run by McDonalds and produces pizzas. The guards are corrupt and Bo is tapped to play on the illegal tackle football team whose goal it is to defeat the team from the CocaCola plant. Clearly the intent is to see which team can more brutally attack the other. But wait Bork, the A.I., Bo has been creating for his science class is determined to spring him from the camp. Each time Bo logs into his WindO, a computer like device that knows your every move, Bork offers him legal advice. In some hair-raising turn of events, Bo attempts to leave the camp and return home.
This novel is difficult to categorize. It is a great football story, a unique entry in the genre of dystopian literature, and a very successful satire on the state of our society and where it might be heading. Hautman is brilliant in his description of the world as we might come to know it. Remember, it wasn't too long ago when bicycle helmets weren't required. Shopping at a mall is easily done by looking at holograms that show all sides of a product. How ironic, too that safety laws are being enforce by Phillip Morris, Co?
The laughs are there, but the discussion of life in the U.S.S.A. in 2o74 will linger long after the laughter stops. Don't miss this book!