Friday, January 3, 2020

Book Review: 'Exiles' Escape: Book 2 of Old Men and Infidels' by W. Clark Boutwell

Exiles' Escape by W. Clark Boutwell

‘Everyone owes God a good death’

Alabama author W Clark Boutwell is a physician who, in addition to practicing medicine focusing on intensive care for newborn infants, also teaches his specialty around the world and volunteers as a physician in Kenya, India, Ecuador, Zambia and Ghana. His literary interests are on aging, medical care, drug use, cybernetics, society and faith in a dystopian America as his ongoing series Old Men and Infidels attests. EXILES’ ESCAPE is the second volume in this five volume series, written in 2018. 

Dr. Boutwell’s facility with language is polished, able to capture attention within the first words of this fascinating science fiction dystopian novel – “Before the beginning of the beginning, Little Bird, there was one nation. Now, we just call it the ’old republic.’ Even then the world was getting older, and the world was getting younger. Further ago than any living memory, the old republic was run from the edges, and the Midlands paid for the heavy lifting.” A small warm body snuggled closer to the man as he rocked slowly in front of a blazing fire of hickory logs, cut from his own trees. “Right after that Iraq War in the last century, the fringes saw their chance. The east coast progs, sensing the coming of the long-predicted revolution, overthrew the government and declared a ‘People’s Republic.’ Wonder what they thought we were, Orang-Utans?” With that fireside talk, the author establishes the atmosphere in doing so challenges us to enter not only his finely constructed story, but also his philosophy.

The continuing saga picks up where the first volume left off and the author offers a fine summary to guide us: ‘Malila is dead by her own hand—at least, that is what she hopes General Jourdaine and the entire Unity will believe. Middle-aged eighteen-year-old Malila Chiu has no choice but to escape her homeland. Making common cause with the strange subterranean workers of the beltways, Malila perseveres toward freedom in the scorched fields of America. Nearly naked, with no friends, no resources and only a scant idea of the route, Malila’s only real information comes from time in the outlands. While a captive of the old, harsh-and-tender-by-turns Jesse Johnstone, Malila learned of the lies told her by her homeland and the truths shown her by the arrogant and contradictory Jesse. She thinks she may love him. If only he were not so strange . . . Pursuing Malila and becoming more obsessed with each failure, Jourdaine moves closer at each turn. Jesse, once again the target for assassination from old enemies, escapes to the skies, using a huge new American R-ship, the Illinois, in his own attempt to find Malila. Spies, subterranean poet-socialists, virtual entities, interfaces, and people—both good and bad—wrestle the Fates for survival and supremacy in a twenty-second-century America.’

Not only is the book completely fascinating as a novel, but also the characters created are wholly three dimensional and well sculpted, and the philosophical postulates are at once challenging and invigorating. The author continues his meaningful – and magnificently entertaining – vision of what the future could bring. Very highly recommended.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.