F/K/A USA by Reed King
***Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for a honest review***
There was a time that I was really into Dystopian Novels. They presented a “world after” that could be either horrifying, struggling, or uplifting in the face of change. (Most were horrifying). I can understand that and find the entertainment/learning value in novels that represent all that is bad about our world eventually destroying it. What makes F/K/A USA by Reed King different from these is that it adds a touch of humor and, for lack of a better way to describe it, a sense of the humanity the characters are striving to save.
The first thing we realize is that the United States is no more (obviously) F/K/A stands for Formerly Known As. The states have all seceded leaving the land ridden with war torn territories instead. In the midst of this a nobody teen named Truckee, from Crunchtown 407 (formerly Little Rock, Arkansas), is entrusted with a political mission after a mishap happens within his own territory. He is to get the talking goat Barnaby across the borders of all the other territories and deliver him to a military base in San Francisco.
GOOD POINT: Barnaby. If there was one thing I could point to as the beacon of light in this story, that didn’t always hold up for me, it would be the wise cracking talking goat himself. There wasn’t a scene that he was a part of that I didn’t enjoy. I really loved his banter and just the character overall.
Along the way the two are joined by Sammi, an android and good friend of Truckee’s on her own journey to be human and a lobotomized criminal who says he is a Grifter (a kind of traveling homeless person that specializes in trade) and claims he has been all across the territories.
This story is not smooth. What I mean is there were moments that felt like they were added to reveal something about the world building only to have it interrupted by the main story line with no real flow. It caused some serious whiplash that I didn’t appreciate. While I was able to keep up and understand the gist of what was going on I do feel that I missed quite a bit of what the Author may have wanted me to get. Unfortunately, I just don’t think I can read it all over again to try and find what it was I may have missed.
Another possibility is everything I think I missed is hidden within the multitude of footnotes that were included at the end of almost every chapter. I hate footnotes and I especially hate them when they really serve no purpose. I started reading them in the beginning only to be gifted definitions of the slang terms being used by the characters. Listen, a swear is a swear no matter the word you use and we as readers can figure it out based on the context of the moment. The footnotes were unnecessary in my opinion and did nothing but bog down the story. I got the gist of what was happening and if understanding fully took a few more paragraphs each chapter with some back story, so be it. I would have read that, but I’m not going to read little bitty footnotes.
I can see why it gets the comparison of a mix of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Wizard of Oz, and Ready Player One. I can address each of these because the similarities are not very subtle, which in my opinion, makes it not very original.
In this story we have the Grifter’s Guide to the Territories. While it doesn’t play as big of a role as the Hitchhiker’s Guide did it’s in there to spout quotes at the beginning of each chapter and then finally as a physical object that Truckee carries around and glances at occasionally. There is a rag tag group each in need of something to make them whole. For Truckee it’s finding his place, for Barnaby it’s courage, for Sammi it’s heart, and for Tiny Tim it’s a brain (lobotomies will do that to ya) a la The Wizard of Oz. As for the Ready Player One comparison it’s evident that they live in a future in which tech is a major part of their lives. The big similarity is the visor that Truckee uses to cruse the internet or the “back net” called the Yellow Brick Road (Head meet brick).
I wasn’t bothered by the fact that this is literally what the book is compared to in it’s synopsis and then to have it presented this way, but I did give a major eye roll as each thing was mentioned in the book. I got over it quickly though, because sometimes there just aren’t fresh ideas, but the other parts of the book were their own and it helped me look beyond these comparisons.
I wasn’t a big fan of the MC. Truckee was a lack luster “chosen one” and I get that may have been the point as the story progresses, but it still wasn’t enough for me to root for him. He was basically a hormonal teen that wanted to bang anything just for the chance to loose his virginity and then when it happens it is just dropped on the floor like an egg, which begs the question what was the point of his character then?
GOOD POINT: There were a lot of visuals that I enjoyed. While it didn’t feel like the world building was completely complete, what was done left me with a great sensory awareness. Few Dystopian stories focus so heavily on the world itself, instead focusing on the characters. It was nice getting some good visuals of the world the characters were living in. From the weird cults, to the androids living with the humans. Each territory seemed to have it’s own thing and it’s impressive that King managed that.
This book was descent and I hear that Warner Bros. has purchased the rights. I can only hope that with the level of detail that King undertook that they go the route of television series versus feature film.
BAD POINT: Appendix A through F (These are worse to have than footnotes and also did not read).
Anticipated Publication date: June 18th 2019
3.5 Out Of 5 Stars
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