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John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars
By Roland Hughes
Reviewed by Jason Pettus
The Mid-Century Modernist era was the height of book-length manifestos masquerading as action novels (see 1984, Atlas Shrugged, and Walden Two for great examples of what I'm talking about); but this subgenre is still alive and well here in the 2010s, as evidenced by Roland Hughes' awkwardly titled John Smith: Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars. Set 68 years in the future, after a cataclysmic event that not only broke apart the continents and ended most life on Earth but whose origins have been completely forgotten by the survivors, this ostensibly takes the form of an interview between a futuristic journalist and the last known person to remember the pre-apocalypse world; but in reality this is essentially a 80,000 word expository speech (or if you like, a 300-page Wikipedia entry), broken up every couple of paragraphs with one of exactly two phrases from the journalist in question, over and over again (either "I don't understand" or "You're crazy"). And it's...you know, an interesting enough scenario that Hughes is laying out here, if not heavily on the obvious techno-conspiracy side (corporations are evil, iPhones have made everyone a voluntary NSA slave, eventually we'll all be screwed over by this, etc etc); but I have to say, without interesting characters or a full three-act plot, a little of this stuff goes a long way, especially when your entire novel only consists of two people and one them spends 300 pages exclusively saying, "I don't understand, tell me more." Less a commercial novel and more like one of those free paperbacks you get handed by some weirdo in front of the train station, I suppose this will be up the alley of those who enjoy visiting the websites of the Drudge Report or Alex Jones; but the rest of you can pretty safely skip it, as long as you understand that this now officially makes you one of the "sheeple."
Out of 10: 6.5