I know what you’re thinking…Another day, another dystopia. It seems as if every author, especially of a conservative or libertarian persuasion, has a cautionary tale to offer. I have by now read too many to count, and most of them leave me unsatisfied. A good dystopia has a lot to accomplish, probably more than any other genre. It needs to show how the society it describes came to be (if it can’t plausibly happen, it will not be effective). It has to be vivid, to show the reader what life in the society is like, physically and emotionally. Finally, I personally like for the author to show us at least a hint of how such a society would fail. My reasoning is that, just as real-life totalitarian regimes have always had weaknesses, so would an imaginary dystopian one. After all, as Michael Crichton pointed out so memorably, nature will always find a way to put things right, and humans are not meant to live without freedom for long.

With all that in mind, A Perfect America is an excellent take on the dystopian genre. It shows a society almost like ours, only with some of our current political follies come to fruition: wealth re-distribution, thought and media control, revisionist history, environmental extremism- all recognizable, only taken to new heights. There are a few nice touches of absurdity, such as persecution of homosexuals and the enforcer/investigator force being called the Inquisitors in a society that banned all religion. Also for some reason all good stuff comes from China, presumably because China kept up with its schizophrenic version of "capitalism" while America gave up all pretense at actually wanting to create anything other than political correctness. With the story being set over 100 years in the future, such setup does not seem too out of the realm of possibility.

The choice of main characters seems off-putting at first: a cold-as-ice Inquisitor and scheming female reporter. However, just as the case they are working on at the start of the story develops into more than it seems, so do the characters under pressure reveal surprising layers. The less said about the plot the better; just be prepared to go with the flow. The style and tone of the book evolve as it goes on, switching at times from straight dystopia to mystery-thriller-action, with a little road trip, romance and more than a touch of Christian fiction thrown in for good measure. Akin to a master chef using seemingly incompatible flavors to create a delicious meal, the author fits together pieces of different genres to achieve something special at the end. In keeping with the analogy, I think I may even be able to point out the "special" (although not-so-secret) ingredient- the irrepressible ability to find hope and moments of grace in the midst of unrelenting darkness. It may be cliche, but it it necessary; now more than ever.