Over the holidays, I traveled back home to my area of the woods in southern Indiana. Because I’m a librarian, my relatives will corner me with book recommendations. It’s a bonding thing.
99% of the time I’ve read, or at least heard of, the books they’re talking about. This time was a little different. One of my cousins was going on and on about this book that took place in the area. “It’s so good, Lizzie,” he told me with a religious-like fervor in his eyes. “I mean, it’s so good because it could happen, you know? IT COULD HAPPEN.”
The book was Indian Country by Kurt Schlinchter. Now at the time I didn’t know the author or his backstory. All I knew about it was that it was an alternative reality fiction taking place in Southern Indiana, and that my cousin, who hadn’t read a books since he had to in high school, was really into it. Because I’m always looking for new titles, I downloaded it from Amazon.
I read it on the flight back to North Carolina, oh boy. What a funny book! The author’s hyperbolic fear of a communist takeover made me giggle. In fact, it was so funny that it helped ease the pain of an Atlanta connection.
Granted, the book is not a comedy, but that’s part of its charm.
This is the part where I warn you about spoilers. WARNING… SPOILERS AHEAD.
Meet Kelly Turnbull. He suffers from Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). Here is how he is described: “Whenever Kelly Turnbull met someone, he always made a tentative plan to kill him.”
That’s classically ASPD.
Fortunately, Kelly had enough sense to enlist in the armed forces so he could legally kill people. I appreciate that. The book opens with him tracking down an Islamic State accountant. The Islamic State is still around because HILLARY CLINTON is president.
So here we get a sample of Turnball’s ASPD:
“Kelly Turnbull was intent on him paying for his actions in a different kind of currency. One that was denominated in calibers.
He didn’t need to rack in a shell–there was always one in his chamber.
“You sure you want a .45?”
“Yeah, I like killing what I shoot the first time.
So Turnbull kills this accountant while he’s in the act of raping a teenage girl (we know she’s a teenager because we’re told several times that she’s a teenager) and there’s more war, then it’s America 2027.
The country’s been divided between red and blue states, but somehow, Southern Indiana wound up in the blue.
Here I have questions.
How did Southern Indiana wound up blue? Was it like daylight savings, where the people in power want Indiana on Eastern Time (New York), and not Central Time (Chicago), even though Central makes more sense because Chicago’s closer than New York, and we’re kind of… Central?
Maybe it was because the author was thinking Illinois was blue, and it was going to stay blue:
The thing is Illinois is blue because of Chicago. If we’re going to divide up, Chicago would most likely be neutral… both sides will need a place to trade and Chicago’s perfectly positioned for trading on both sides. It’s what I would do.
Besides, even if Illinois went blue, there’s no way that Southern Indiana would even find itself aligned with the blue states. No way. Just… I can’t even. I can’t. There’s no way.
I decide that this must be a satire.
Things are bad now that Southern Indiana’s forced into the blue.
First of all, there’s no more Count Chocula:
“Why won’t you buy Count Chocula?” Jimmy complained.
“I told you,” Liz said. “There’s no more Count Chocula.”
It was true. All the sugary cereals kids actually liked were long gone from the supermarket shelves. They announced the new regulations from the Food Justice Commission on the news one evening, and the next day shelves were bare.
THE TRAVESTY. I nearly fall out of my chair laughing. This is a great satire.
There’s more. Poor Beth can’t even get into college because her last name is Chalmers… and they don’t know anybody with connections! Worst of all, the school bus “may or may not be coming and they needed to be at the stop in case it was their lucky day.”
I snort water from my nose. School buses stopped being a thing several years ago, especially in Indiana. In 2015, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that school districts must offer free education that’s open to all, but “the [state] framers did not intend for every aspect of public education to be free.” Moreover, school districts nationwide are no longer providing mandatory busing. For a 50 State Comparison of student busing, see the 2017 Education Commission of the States Transportation Chart.
Besides, everybody in Southern Indiana is homeschooled.
Turnbull is back in Texas, where he is now at an army base training new Red State citizens for military service. Serving in the military is the only way a Red State citizen can vote:
“You didn’t just get full citizenship by the virtue of being born in the United States anymore. The right to vote and hold office had to be earned. These recruits were at the very beginning of their two year citizenship service. If they volunteered, they could try no matter what their physical condition. If they performed to the standard–modified where need be for recruits like the one in the wheelchair–they graduated.”
WHOO HOO, no more taxes!! If citizenship hinges on mandatory service, then anyone who does not do mandatory service is not a citizen and that would make them exempt from taxes. Otherwise it’s TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION, BABY!
There is nothing in this story about non-citizens being exempt from taxes.
I read on.
Because of his inability to control his temper and his innate blood-thirstiness, Turnbull is tapped to lead an insurrection in Southern Indiana, now called The People’s Republic:
“If these places are hard to govern, the blues might be more willing to let them go.”
Turnbull leaned in. “How hard to govern are we talking about?”
“Not violence. Oh, no. We don’t want a violent insurgency.”
Clearly, Turnbull is the man for the job.
So, he flies to Indianapolis, and everybody’s rude and whatnot. Then he gets to customs and everything’s a mess:
“The custom line in Indianapolis was pure chaos, at least for people like Turnbull at the back of the line… first come, first served was a relic of the pre-Split racist paradigm, so the order through the three bored customs officers’ station was determined by some sort of pyramid of relative victimhood that no sign or official offered to explain… one official walked by him as he waited… and asked “Do you identify as gay?”
“Sorry, I like girls,” Turbull said, shrugging. The officer scrunched up his face in disgust.
“I totally like men,” interjected a guy Turnbull had watched check out every female derriere that crossed his path. The officer waved him ahead.
Satire, right? It’s got to be satire, because I’ve had the opportunity to travel in my life, and one thing I learned from my travels is that people from communist (People’s Republic) countries are good at standing in line. It’s a thing.
Turnbull gets to Southern Indiana, and stuff happens… it turns out that the first thing the state did was take everybody’s guns, leaving them prey for the People’s Volunteers–a.k.a. Gang Members. Turnbull eventually loses it and starts a war.
The leaders of the blue get nervous. They’re all, “We believe this area is going to be one of the regions that the red is going to seek to recover. We don’t want that. We need its agriculture… “
I dropped my kindle. Southern Indiana has agriculture, sure, but it’s not known for it. The ground is too rocky. Northern Indiana is agriculture:
What Southern Indiana has is limestone and coal. Indiana Limestone built the Empire State building and the Pentagon. In fact, you can kind of judge how the economy is doing by how many semis hauling stone you see leaving Bedford and heading north. (I didn’t see any this time, by the way).
Southern Indiana is also part of the Illinois Coal Basin:
People think of West Virginia and mining, but Indiana happens to be the home of the Bear Run Mine, the largest coal mine in the eastern United States. Owned by Peabody Energy, Bear Run sold 7.3 million tons of coal in 2017.
Now that’s a reason to keep a Red State red.
Okay, here’s where I started getting bored. Research is so important, and Indiana’s much more complex than people give it credit for. I love independent authors, but all authors–independent or not–need to do their research.
What happens to Turnbull and the Count Chocula-less Jimmy and Beth? Who knows. I haven’t picked it up since I got back. I may finish it. I probably won’t. Or I will. Who knows?
Speaking of research… when I got back from my travels, I did some research on the author and other reviews. Turns out this wasn’t a satire. The author’s a well-known conservative commentator and several people took it as something that could happen. Also, the author says it is a serious take on a potential future in the preface.
I need to start reading prefaces.