A review of

Liberation

by Brian Francis Slattery

Central question: What’s the difference between a criminal and a liberator?
Format: 304 pp., paperback; Size: 5" x 8"; Price: $14.95; Publisher: Tor Books; Editor: Liz Gorinsky; Print run: 7,000; Song on which the book is loosely based: Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited”; Book’s full subtitle: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America; Reason the author had a run-in with police in McPherson, Kansas, while doing research for the book: He inadvertently photographed the town jail too many times; Representative sentence: “Write your anger on the surface of the world in letters of fire, and let them rage until the words have destroyed everything.”

In Brian Francis Slattery’s second novel, the collapse of the dollar has led to a slavery-based society run by the new boss of Manhattan, a man known as the Aardvark. Facing off against the Aardvark is Marco Angelo Oliviera, a kind of killer’s killer whose stealthy-fast methods seem almost superhuman. Marco is a member of the Slick Six, a scattered and diminished gang of international criminals. Escaping a prison ship, Marco decides to re-form the Slick Six, resulting in a trek from New York to North Carolina, then to Louisiana and on through to California. In addition to tracking down his fellow Slick Sixers, Marco encounters, among others, the New Sioux (a group of Native Americans hell-bent on avenging injustices) and the Americoids (a group of hippie nomads led by Doctor San Diego). He and his cohorts also march deep into his own past, and the country’s past, aided by a psychic emanation called “the Vibe.”

If you think this sounds like Thomas Pynchon or John Calvin Batchelor territory, you would be correct. Slattery’s approach walks a tightrope between absurdism and a kind of accentuated Byzantine realism.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer recently completed a new novel, Finch, along with Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer. Short fiction is forthcoming in Black Clock and a Library of America anthology edited by Peter Straub. For more information, visit jeffvandermeer.com.

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