M. Ray Lott's Two Minutes to Midnight is an Orwellian exercise in "what-if" that is at its core a warning of the dangerous path today's struggles to ensure social equality may lead us down. This cautionary tale doesn't point a finger at a mere single faction
(read: knee-jerk liberals or unfeeling conservatives) or issue as culpable for a future where reward is based not on ability nor even need.
Everyone and no one is ultimately responsible for a future where a mockery has been made of the land of the free. This is America through the looking glass.
novel centers on a pivotal figure in the formation of the Confederated States of
America, the legendary Resistance fighter and Protectorate Agent Nat Turner, née
James William Gilchrist. Bouncing back and forth in time between Turner's days
on death row in the burlesque that the U.S. has become and the real story of his
desperate childhood flight toward Canada with his parents, the narrative draws
the reader in almost against his will, often making one squirm uncomfortably
with the dystopian potential for what most see as today's progressive policies.
Between the absurd extremes to which governmentally mandated affirmative action,
racial parity and reparations have been taken and the disastrous effects of
ecologically unwise natural resource abuse at the hands of purely profit-minded
big business, the once-great nation is on the verge of imploding.
Through the plight of young James and his estranged parents, the morbidly
fascinating morass of nonsensical social engineering is revealed. It's
capitalism turned inside out, communism upended, socialism eating its own tail.
Jobs, possessions, even spouses are handed out not based on merit, ability or
even love, but on the degree to which any given person's special status group
has been historically mistreated. The haves are forced to give their lives
up to the have-nots; even history is being rewritten to include oppressed
minorities, no matter the veracity of the new accounts. The climate has gone to
hell, and in the few places where precipitation still falls, the sizzle of
burning acid fills the air rather than the gentle patter of rejuvenating rain.
There are more lawyers than laymen, and criminals more often than not are
successful in suing their victims. In other words, it's become a place where no
self-respecting sane person would want to stay, between the re-education camps
where torture is always on the daily menu and the RSS, the glorified vice squads
on the prowl for anyone violating the laws governing race and sex.
The story of the Gilchrist family on the run is punctuated by the adult
Turner's death-row journal, and as the story unfolds the reader begins to see
the toll that fighting to take back a stolen nation has exacted on a bright,
once-naive boy, shaping him into a ruthless, jaded agent of a new government in
danger of becoming just another version of the corrupt old boss.
Lott's narrative is at times astonishing in its eloquence whether or not the
reader ultimately agrees with the underlying philosophy, especially in the first
half of the book. That fluency founders somewhat in the second half of the
book, in which the adult Turner is tailing a possible mole in the Confederate
States. The partial loss of articulateness is due to a slacker copy- and
line-editing ethic later in the book, but by then the reader is hooked and would
stumble through a far pricklier thicket of misused homonyms and inadvertently
doubled words to find out how James Gilchrist/Nat Turner and his mission fare.
An interesting, challenging commentary on one possible looming social