Book Review: Dystopia Boy
In Dystopia Boy, the coming-of-age charm of Stand By Me meets the cyberpunk possibilities of The Matrix to create a near-future, rock ‘n’ roll-inspired ride through a neglected American heartland where marginalized characters must fight for survival, purpose, and community — or remain prisoners of the religious hypocrisy and broken consumerism turning their world to hell.
A United States slipping into a fascist corporate theocracy provides the background of Joe Vagrant, a one-time Bible banger and high school dropout who rises up from a childhood of abuse in Montana to become lead guitarist of indie wonder band The Johnny High-Fives. In the process, feats of drug-induced daring soon allow Joe to transcend not only music, but the darkest networks of the world wide web, which so much of his fabricated society is built upon.
The endearing relationship Joe forms with his boyhood crush, Audrey Lamb, along with his best buddy and musical sidekick, Billy Lee, fuels a story of love and loyalty that forces Joe to navigate the murky and uncertain terrain of his mind-blowing subconscious to liberate his friends — and himself — from a state-sponsored surveillance system run amok.
Luckily, with the additional help of aliens that abducted him as a youth, a grinning balloon named Mr. Smiles, and the Thought Chip implanted in his brain, Joe proves that his ‘metal head’ tendencies serve a dual purpose. Not only do the Watchers monitor his every thought and move — but in his case, at least — the ability seems to go both ways. Joe is able to watch the Watchers, providing a unique opportunity, and weapon, to fuck with the villainous tyrants of his day.
Trevor Richardson’s novel reads with the literary playfulness of Tom Robbins, the pop-culture insight of Ernest Cline, and the plain-spoken wackiness of Philip Dick. Dystopia Boy is a long trip down an ever-imaginable rabbit hole, but it is especially prescient for society’s skeptics whose thoughts and emotions while delving into a tale are as important as the action on the page.
Ryan Hyatt, Nov. 1, 2019