Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book Review | Sunshine State by James Miller

Little, Brown
Review by Lachlan Huddy

It’s all looking rosy for Mark Burrows at the outset of this near-future fever dream. Sure, there's some unfortunate more-or-less-global devastation wrought by climate change, but Burrows's native Britain has escaped the worst of it and the retired spy is looking forward to fatherhood. Cue the One Last Job. Burrows is called back into service and shipped out to Florida—better known now as the Storm Zone care of, well, guess—in pursuit of his ex-comrade and brother-in-law, Charles Ashe. Ashe has become something of a messiah to the various minorities and extremist groups who, unwelcome in an America now run by iron-fisted evangelical Christians, call the Storm Zone home. So begins Burrows’s descent into, yes, the heart of darkness. Nothing wrong with ripping off an English classic so long as your head and heart’s in the right place, and Miller’s intentions are fittingly noble in seeking to highlight the dangerous political forces at war for America’s soul. Of course Sunshine State suffers in comparison to its forebears (Ashe’s sympathetic villain also owes much to Milton's Lucifer of Paradise Lost), but playing runner-up to the canon is no shameful thing. Some have complained of Miller’s overwrought prose, and to be sure the pages turn a little purple at times, but it isn’t wanton; the technique builds atmosphere and sucks the reader irrevocably into the mind of a maddening man and a mad, mad world.

This review first appeared in the Aurealis Magazine subscriber newsletter.

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