December 13, 2023

Review: The Lost Cause

The Lost Cause The Lost Cause by Cory Doctorow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is very political and full of various environmental and anti-authoritarian messaging, so if that sort of thing turns you off, you should skip it altogether. I found it an interesting near-future look at what the world might turn into, if we ("we" being the people in the USA) can get rid of all the old white authoritarian dinosaurs who are holding back progress.

By "getting rid of" I don't mean killing them, although a satisfying number of the antagonists in this story get their asses hauled off to jail at the end. Unfortunately, that ending is also bittersweet and more than a little depressing, even if it is a logical outgrowth of the story and the damage that has been done in-universe.

This story takes place approximately 25-30 years in the future, after an alternate-history run of Democratic presidents that usher in a Green New Deal that is finally making some progress against climate change. Of course, the effects are settling in by then, as evidenced by all the ways the characters are building seawalls and moving coastal cities away from the rising waters. Our protagonist is Brooks Palazzo, a young man just graduating from high school who after the deaths of his parents has been living for the past ten years with his grandfather. Said grandfather is a racist, xenophobic member of a "Maga club," (the originator of this phrase is never mentioned, but the toxic beliefs and followers he spawned are very much a part of this story) and the plot details Brooks and his friends fighting against their attempts to start a civil war to bring down all the advances the country is making.

The author does try to explore the worldview of the Maga clubs. They're still pretty much assholes, though:

The Maga Clubs were really feeling their oats. With Bennett in the White House, they were convinced their long nightmare was ending and with it, the obligation to look after one another and acknowledge that the world is a shared space full of living, breathing humans who deserved the same happiness and comfort that you did. They just hated that idea, as I well understood from endless nonconsensual conversations with Gramps and his pals.

But nobody is completely good or bad in this story. Brooks' pals also have their flaws, including believing too much in cryptocurrency and libertarianism. There are all kinds of completing political views and philosophies shown here, and it's kind of fun digging into them. This is a sort of coming of age story, as by the end Brooks realizes what he wants to do with his life (joining the so-called Blue Helmet Corps, who work in various endangered coastal cities to help climate refugees).

This is probably a bit of a marmite book; any reader who doesn't appreciate not-at-all-subtle political messaging won't like this much. I enjoyed it, but your mileage may vary.

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