A dystopian novel set in a contemporary America which is no more. Broken into warring territories, its center has become a wasteland DMZ known as 'the Tropic of Kansas.' Two travelers appear in this arid American wilderness: Sig, the fugitive orphan of political dissidents, and his foster sister Tania, a government investigator whose search for Sig leads her into her own past—and towards an unexpected future.
Christopher Brown’s Tropic of Kansas is very much the slap upside the head we need right now—a stark vision of a dystopian America that feels closer each day ... Brown’s dystopian view is rendered slightly more palatable by the action- and intrigue-packed middle section of the novel, as the rebellion races to stay one step ahead of the government. If the book wasn’t so provocative in its themes, we’d be talking about what an effective thriller it is. When it wants to be ... Brown’s vision of a deeply, deeply divided America under…let’s say controversial leadership has the ring of truth. Its stark vision won’t appeal to everyone (to put it mildly), but it’s a novel with a lot to say. This is science fiction doing the job science fiction does best: looking down a particular path, and suggesting we might want to think twice before heading that way.
Tropic Of Kansas is like a modern dystopian buffet. It plays out in a world where all of our terrors have become manifest — climate change, wealth disparity, terrorism, an authoritarian government in power suppressing its own citizens, corporate control of everything from food to media. It is, in this particular moment in history, frighteningly prescient. It is the nightly news with the volume turned up to 11 ... From about the hundredth page forward, you know how it is all going to go down. But Brown, to his credit, uses the pages given to him to paint a frighteningly believable portrait of an American future that is closer than you want it to be. He sketches small-town fury and ultra-super-uber-right-wing nationalism in detail.
That vision will resonate with a lot of voters in the big square states, who might agree that politics offers only a choice between 'regular and decaf oligarchs,' in Mr. Brown’s phrase. As for the idea that the Constitution keeps executive power in check, that’s fine except that the law now serves power like 'the devil’s butler' ... Tropic of Kansas is good at projecting pain and bitterness. Finding a cure isn’t so easy, even for sci-fi. But the first step is recognizing that something’s wrong.