Michael Kammrath (Independent Consultant, Bucharest)
Book Review of: ‘2084’ by “Simon Q.”, Leanteam Press, 203 pages
At first glance, it’s tempting to think that 2084, a recently published book anonymously authored under the nom de plume Simon Q., is meant to be a successor to Orwell’s masterpiece ‘1984’. Certainly, the author acknowledges such genetic linkage by giving it its century later adaptive title. And both novels also share other key and important similarities both structurally (set in an imagined future) and thematically (interweaving political commentary into “objective” observation of “ordinary” events). However, while the temptation to think of the two novels in terms of links in a successive chain is, on the surface, strong, it is also, fundamentally, wrong.
These are two different books. Orwell set his novel in the future as a warning – of where we could be going. Simon Q. sets his novel in the future as an indictment – of where we are now. 1984 is of, primarily, historical or literary interest; 2084 is as relevant to Europeans today as the latest downgrade of their countries’ sovereign debt ratings. The reader will discover, as I did, that the only authentic connective tissue between the two books is that they each have something potently significant to say for the eras in which each was published.
Like a sorcerer, the author employs a number of simple-seeming but sophisticated literary devices to make us see what is already there, and in the process turns commonly accepted knowledge and assumptions upside down. One such conceit, which is central and reiterated throughout the book, is the generally assumed conclusion that our governments and institutions of governance have become dysfunctional, primarily due to the prominence of “bad actors.” And certainly, and in particular at the beginning of 2084, these bad actors are classified, identified and excoriated.
But, eventually, as the reader journeys through the book, it becomes overwhelmingly evident that it is not current institutions or singularly modern crooks that are to blame for our woes but something much more ancient: The Seven Deadly Sins. That there are greedy and dishonest actors in both the public and private sectors is unquestionable. The real questions are: Who put them there? Who allows them to flourish and go unpunished? Why does it only seem to get worse? And this leads, ineluctably, back to us. It is our laziness, our greed, our envy and all the other deadly usual suspects, which have brought this all about. The bad actors are, truly, only our representatives.
One of the sublime pleasures – if that is the right word – of reading 2084 is putting it down. When you put the book down it comes back to re-visit you, in a personal way, every time you watch the news or read a newspaper or even when sometimes you go for a walk by yourself. I happened to have gotten my review copy of 2084 during the failure, in the US, of the “Super Committee” of Representatives and Senators to reach an agreement on the budget of the United States. This “Super” committee was established after another failure, this time of the entire government to reach agreement on the budget and how to deal with the enormous and rising debt levels accruing to the country. Simply put, the Republicans were against raising revenues (i.e. taxes), while the Democrats were against cutting entitlements (i.e. benefits).
Both Republicans and Democrats were aware that a recent Gallup poll showed that 74 percent of Americans recognized that “taxes would have to be raised and benefits would have to be cut” to avoid economic catastrophe. But they were both even more aware that the same poll (!) showed that 83% “would vote against any politician who either raised taxes or cut benefits.” Yes, I thought about 2084 when I read that news. Even more than that, I rushed back to the book to find the part where the Old Man (one of the two primary protagonists of the book), looking back over the events that lead up to destruction of the world as we know it says, “If the world had known, I am not sure people would have acted differently.” It is shocks of recognition like this that give 2084 its strange and captivating powers that go beyond mere story telling.
This is not to say that 2084 is all gloom and doom. Well, actually, most of the book is about doom and gloom, but it is wittily written in what, incongruously, is a light-hearted manner. And, although I was not literally counting, I can confidently report that there are at least three caustically comic comments per page. And there are dozens of unexpected, and funny, turns of events based on what logic should ensure (my favorite being when Israeli and Palestinian women, finally and fully fed up with their men’s centuries-long stupid machismo, just go ahead and settle the Mid-East situation themselves in a typically feminine and business-like way).
But finally, 2084’s chief asset – and what propels the reader through the pages – is the author’s highly original, and deeply insightful, commentaries on global situations that are unfolding, and affecting us, now. Set in the High Alps, his view extends to the coming energy crisis, China’s effect on resource shortages, the corrosive shenanigans on Wall Street as well as high streets, and the disintegration of Europe (his views on what will happen to the Euro are worth the purchase price alone). The still lingering EU crisis that some believe can well challenge Europe’s global role makes the analysis in this book all the more relevant. It is impossible to summarize this very unusual and exceptionally entertaining book. But I can tell you it will make you think differently about current events. I urge you to read it to see what I mean.