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To my brothers and sisters dispersed across the Internet:

This is the Great Recession novel for which I have been waiting!

Dignity by Ken Layne.

I came across it this weekend when Chris Clarke, via Google+, mentioned his review of it was up on KCET.org.

It is one of the better books I've read in a while. For me there is a certain science fictional feel to it, but I grew up on a steady diet of science fiction/apocalyptic fiction, so I often confuse the two.

Chris Clarke calls this a "modest utopia." Layne successfully lays out his utopian ideas without saccharine or schmaltz. There is a dystopian threat there, too, but it stays in the background even as it drives the story forward. Layne embraces the didactic voice necessary to convey his vision, but the conceit of the epistolary successfully covers any awkward soliloquies or "infodumps."

Rejecting spiritual or prescriptive pretexts so often found with such bold visions, Layne sets out his ideas as an epistolary. The narrator, N., writes to various communities around California. Some are thriving, others withering, and most are persecuted by a society and government that distrusts and fears anyone who would propose an alternative arrangement of society. Through his letters to these communities, written twenty-some years after the first group met for a communal dinner in Los Angeles, we learn of the founding of this movement and of its enigmatic, serene founder, B.

This book has stuck with me since I finished it earlier tonight. I read it in a few short hours, which is a rarity for me. Books always have an impact on me for a while after I finish them, but I think this one will join the short list of books that have stuck with me long-term. I felt mildly uncomfortable reading it on a Screen - my kindle - but I can't resist a $2.99 novel. I don't think I'm in danger of abandoning the circumstances in which I live, but Layne presents a tempting, provocative, and somewhat attractive alternative to our way of life.

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turtleshell

August 2011

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