Book Review :
Alternative Truths III: Endgame
Published by B Cubed Press
Edited by Bob Brown and Jess Faraday
The new release Alternative Truths III: Endgame is the latest in a series of anthologies powered by the core premise of resistance through art. The stories and poems collected in these volumes are meant to speculate on any number of future outcomes of the Trump presidency and they operate in direct defiance and criticism of the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
As a rule, I like to keep politics out of things as often as I can, but it would be ridiculous to attempt that here. How well this tome works for the individual reader is absolutely going to come down to their political leanings. I personally have no love for our current administration, making me the target audience for this book.
For those of you with other things to do, here’s a “too long, didn’t read” cliff notes take on my review: I give it four stars. Though I have a few criticisms, which I will address in greater detail below, overall I thought it was a successful endeavor that hit far more frequently than it missed. The collected tales are-for the most part- well written, with a few (which I will single out in a bit) I found absolutely brilliant.
Okay, that’s the short take. For those of you interested in more detail , read on.
I’ve already established I enjoyed the book a lot, so I won’t rehash that or do a blow-by-blow break down of each story. Instead, I’m going to break this down into what doesn’t work and what does. Keep in mind, this is a subjective analysis. Those with different tastes may have a completely different response.
And allow me to clarify: I have no current affiliation with B Cubed Press . I was offered an Advance Reading Copy in favor of an honest review. As you will shortly discover, that’s precisely what I’ve delivered.
What I felt didn’t work:
As is usually the case with anthologies, some of the stories here didn’t quite get there for me. The most notable example was the very first offering, “Bathroom Breakdown” a quick flash piece set in a restroom. Reading this , I felt alarm bells going off: Was this going to be a series of low brow, lampoon-Trump-at- all-costs no matter how tasteless the material might be kind of anthology?
Fortunately , any apprehension I might have experienced was immediately dispelled upon reading the second story ( and first full length tale), the marvelous “The First Lady is Missing” by Louise Marley (you’ll be seeing that title again shortly) . I honestly felt that Marley’s work should have been the opening story. “Bathroom Breakdown” would be better placed mid way through the book, as a humorous break between some of the darker material.
Another criticism I have is repetition: There are at least three stories that use the convention of Trump’s’ misspelled tweets. It’s funny enough at first, but after a while I began to tire of the trope.The same goes for depictions of him behaving like a spoiled, overgrown child. After a while, it loses its impact. This is a man who has presumably spoken over 10,000 untruths during his time in office. Certainly there’s a veritable buffet of other topics to touch upon when satirizing/criticizing him him.
What I felt worked:
In the larger scheme of things, the criticisms I’ve listed above didn’t really detract from my ultimate enjoyment of the total package. I’m pleased to report that, when this book gets it right, it gets it very right.
The stories that did work for me – and more of them did than not- were top notch. The assembled talent here was impressive to behold and if I didn’t necessarily agree with where the authors took their narratives in some of these tales, I could at least appreciate the craft that went into them. Moreover, it does what it set out to do: Pulls back the veil, offering a peek into a range of potential futures arising from the current status quo while challenging us to do better.
In that spirit, let me list a few of the standouts I think readers should check out upon purchasing a copy:
“The First Lady is Missing”: Louise Marley’s excellent story, written from the perspective of the titular character. The ending is both compelling and evocative. This was a personal favorite, offering a take I hadn’t considered going in.
“Act III” – by David Gerrold. This isn’t actually a story, but a brilliantly written, fascinating essay offering a theory as to why Trump behaves the way he does. This one had me thinking and that’s always a welcome development.
“Hell’s Angel” – by Robert Walton. A darkly comic look at what might transpire as Trump makes his entrance into the afterlife. Of all the stories collected here, I felt this one captured the tone of Trump’s real world demeanor the best, even if it was in a purely supernatural setting.
“No Excuse” by Debora Godfrey. Though this one taps into the tweet thing, it’s in service to a really clever , frequently funny story told from the perspective of the AG and his executive assistant. I had a lot of fun with this and really enjoyed the banter between the main characters.
“The Nature of the Problem” – by Thomas A. Easton. A chilling account of an important scientific discovery and how ignorance in the face of this new knowledge destroys a man’s life. Conspiracy theorists like the Infowars crowd take a hard shot here and it’s simply wonderful.
The bottom line: Stumbling out of the gate, making a quick recovery and proceeding to be a remarkably entertaining and thought provoking anthology, Alternative Truths III: Endgame offers a fresh perspective on our current state of affairs , taking on politics and American culture with wit, wisdom and insight while sending a clear message: We have to change course or we’re in trouble.
**** out of ***** stars. Recommended reading.