I have met, befriended, and read several authors that I hadn’t discovered over the past year.
One of my favorites is definitely Stephen Kozeniewski, author of such novels as The Ghoul Archipelago, Braineater Jones, Hunter of the Dead, and Billy and the Cloneasaurus.
After meeting him I immediately knew that I had to pick up something of his work to dive into and sate my never ending love affair with the written word. After reviewing his bibliography I decided on Every Kingdom Divided a dystopian thriller depicting a 2nd American Civil War between the Red (Primarily the South and Midwest) and Blue (Pacific and Northeast Coast) states with political moderates called Whites stuck in between.
I know what you’re thinking “Wile you’re a horror novelist and love reading the same, why are you taking the time to read something like this?”
First of all, yes I love reading horror and writing the same but it doesn’t mean I haven’t aspired to write dystopian fiction akin to Mad Max or Waterworld, so if an author I respect writes dystopian fiction you know I will be reading it.
Second of all: I read this around election time and I felt like I was reading a possible window into the future.
A window that is heavily tinted with unending amounts of satire.
The novel revolves around Jack a doctor from Blue California who must travel across the entire mainland US in search of his fiancé who is a soldier in the Blue Army on the other side of the Divided States.
At least that is the adventure he claims to have undertook as he is interrogated by a Blue Commander under siege from approaching Red forces who wishes to execute him as a potential Red spy.
Jack’s story carries lingering hints of Homer’s the Odyssey if it was ground up in a blender, painted red, white, and blue, then bathed in a fresh dose of Americana. Jack’s trials continue to escalate and that’s when you see the true beauty of the novel and its point: extremism of any type is bad.
From Mexican armies attempting to reclaim former land, Mormon religious police enforcing strict morality codes, Red dogmatic conservatism, Blue hedonistic liberalism, and White shoot everything that moves because we’re the minority in the political structure.
An odd mix of Judge Dredd, Mad Max, and the tv series Jericho all wrapped up in a neat and nice package that shows an understanding of some of the flaws of our still united country and what we could possibly become if we allow ourselves to be divided rather than participate in the conversation understanding that some people believe in different things than we do… and that isn’t a bad thing.
I will admit that the ending felt kind of rushed but doesn’t detract from the novel at all and brings a resolution that I hesitantly hope will lead to a sequel.
A wonderful read that I would recommend to anyone who isn’t particularly hardcore about their politics and a great entryway to Mr. Kozeniewski’s work.
Sidenote: I live in Oklahoma and making Lawton the capitol of a totalitarian bible thumping regime was spot on brilliance.