One interesting thing about novels set in the future is that they allow the reader to see how the author imagines the future transpiring. Will America overcome its current challenges, its “fourth turning,” and ender a new Golden Age? Will we be stuck in wars over resources or ideology? Will liberty triumph over the power-hungry state or will the bureaucrats gradually whittle away our liberty to nothing? Of course, no author can see into the future; the novels are just figments of their imagination. However, it’s interesting to see what they imagine current events leading to.
Fractured State by Steven Konkoly is no exception. In it, he gives one view on how current trends, especially in politics and resource usage might play out in a near-future California.
Set in the mid-2030s, Fractured State is a tale about a man, Nathan Fischer, who finds himself involved in a conflict between a group of Californians wanting to secede from the Union and a powerful group of business interests and politicians that want California to remain part of America. Konkoly imagines a California starved for water and resorting to increasingly totalitarian measures to keep resource use low enough to be sustainable. Meanwhile, the bad guys, the ONC (One Nation Coalition) are determined to keep California a part of the US and will do anything necessary to make that happen.
It’s a tale of authoritarianism, private military contractors, oligarchs, and a reluctant coterie of heroes forced to do the right thing by circumstance. The plot is fast-paced, the action realistic, and the characters seem like either the people you know from your neighborhood or the worst dreams of a conspiracy forum.
More than that, it’s a novel that touches on two of the most important issues of the day: the growing role of violence in the political process and the totalitarian impulses of the green lobby.
I’ll touch on the second issue first. In Fractured State, the battle over resources is what leads to much of the plot. In the California Fischer imagines, resources, especially water, are scarce due to poor management policies and the state responds by issuing ever more totalitarian edicts. Citizens can’t travel where or how they please, water use is highly expensive, and powerful interests on both sides expend vast resources on claiming a bigger share of the pie.
But that conflict is more than just a setting, it’s likely a prediction soon to become a reality. If you take the time to listen to the Green lobby, they’re uninterested, if not completely unconcerned with, individual liberty. Rather than respect your rights and let the market decide how to allocate resources, they’d rather centrally plan from where your energy can come, how much of each natural resource you can use, and what must be banned in the interest of fighting the phantom concept of “climate change.” Fractured State shows what that predilection for state control and central planning might look like in the likeliest of places for it to first come into effect: California.
In addition to the idea of state control over resources, a central part of Fractured State is that there are some people who wouldn’t hesitate to use violence, even in the form of false flag attacks, to achieve their political ends. Both the remain and leave crowd are organized, armed, and highly dangerous. On one side are secretive guerillas and demagouges with the ability to mass menacing crowds and on the other side are business interests paying PMCs not just to protect them and their interests, but to actively target and attack the other side.
That is, unfortunately, not so unlike today. Yes, the groups involved are somewhat difference. Democrats aren’t hiding in the bushes with thermal scopes and Americans for Tax Reform isn’t hiring Blackwater to kill AOC, but violence is becoming the norm, especially for the left. Antifa and BLM, both armed arms of the Democrat Party, work to silence dissenters and crush the opposition. Armed militiamen stood up to and defeated the government at Bundy’s ranch. The Proud Boys and Antifa battle it out in the streets. Etc. Yes, none of that has escalated into open warfare, as it does in Fractured State. But we’re not that far away.
All of those aspects of Fractured State combine to make it an excellent novel. The world is a dystopian one, a cross between Mad Max and Weimar Germany. The characters could be your next-door neighbor Jim or a figment of the QAnon crowd’s imagination. The action, far from being the unrealistic trash found in most novels, seems straight out of a combat report. Overall, it’s a fantastically fun and thought-provoking read.