August 4, 2019

Review: Internment

Internment Internment by Samira Ahmed
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The internment of Muslim American citizens by the United States government is a frightening thought, and this could have been an important, timely book....if it was better written. Unfortunately, it's not. The overall impression it left to me was shallow, with inch-deep characterizations and poor worldbuilding. Which sounds like an oxymoron, since it's essentially the America of today on a slight alternate-timeline track. The name of the president isn't mentioned, but everyone who reads this book will know who the author is talking about. The same slogans are used, the same technology--with a heavy emphasis on social media, of course--and the past protest group Occupy, as in Occupy Wall Street, is mentioned. All this could have added up to a good story. The ingredients are there. But the execution is utterly lacking.

Even with fiction set fifteen minutes in the future, your world and plot has to be plausible, and this simply isn't. I can see the current administration trying to set up a registry for Muslim Americans, but that would be tied up in court for years, as would any attempts to confine them to internment camps. (And for that matter, can you imagine our government even breaking ground on said camp without the news immediately leaking to Twitter and Facebook? It sure as heck wouldn't get completely built in secret, as this book tries to pass off.) The only way this plot could get even halfway off the ground is if martial law were declared, and that would promptly spark a civil war when a great many of the military would refuse to follow the president's orders. I'm sure most of the Border Patrol and ICE would be the administration's obedient little lackeys, but there would be a helluva lot of people in the Army and National Guard who would remember they swore an oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

This first hurdle is compounded by the fact that the characterizations in this book are...not good. They're more caricatures than characters--the Muslim heroine, the Jewish boyfriend, the white camp guard who falls in love with the heroine (he never comes right out and says it, but it's obvious) and rethinks what he's doing in this camp. The camp Director is a one-note purple-lipped villain, cardboard-thin, whose only purpose seems to be to threaten and bluster and hit people, either in front of witnesses or on a recording that can be leaked to social media. The Director is not the sharpest tool in the shed, let's say. And the way this story ends is even more unbelievable than the way it starts.

No, your time would be far better served by reading some actual history, namely about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Go find a good book on the camp named Manzanar and read that instead.

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