Monday, June 7, 2010

Boomsday / by Christopher Buckley

18-year-old Cassandra Cohane is more than a little peeved when her father blows her college tuition money (and all the family's savings) on his own startup company. Her dreams of Yale now ruined, Cassandra enlists in the Army, soon finding herself stuck in a European combat zone where life resembles anything but ivy-hewn sophistication. Things don't stay so dismal for very long though. One day Cassandra finds herself chauffering US Senator Randy Jepperson whose blunt manners and roguish behavior soon land the pair in a mine field of trouble after their hummer (the freewheeling senator having commandeered the vehicle for some joyriding) literally lands in, well, a mine field. This quite uncalled for accident holds some fortuitous karma for Cassandra. She's abruptly discharged in very hush-hush fashion and whisked off to Washington where she becomes part of Senator Jepperson's political staff, an opportunity finally allowing her the platform to promote her own radical, but no less serious, ambitions for social justice.
Ten years later, Cassandra Devine (her permanent name-change enacted out of still-strong bitterness towards her father) is a prominent PR rep involved in Jepperson's campaign for the presidency. Having observed how the government's rapidly inflating deficit, which coupled with the demographic shift of baby boomers into retirement, has plunged the country into a catastrophic economic crisis, depriving her own generation of basically everything, Cassandra has become a vigilant advocate of "voluntary transitioning" for senior citizens--her own tongue-in-cheek term for euthanasia. Things are so strained economically, with so much backlash politically (i.e., daily attacks on Florida retirees who've bankrupted the country with their Social Security pensions and government benefits), that Cassandra's seemingly insane plan is actually being taken seriously. Things in Washington inevitably go haywire as both proponents and opponents fiercely lobby over the seemingly inconceivable, but at the same time feasible, solution to the country's desperate problem.

Buckley's follow-up to his rollicking debut Thank You For Smoking shares the same over-the-top, zany concept as its predecessor. Boomsday stays relevant even with its outrageous ideas and frivolous, somehwhat reckless storyline. Most will recognize the book as just plain good humor, and yet will be able to understand the broader, ironically pandered ideas casually intended--enhancing awareness of the country's self-imploding financial crisis and promoting brainstorming about fiscal solvency. Not everyone will be able to appreciate, or understand Buckley's high-strung, lightning-paced and, yes, frequently absurd method of storytelling and readers needing a more fundamentally grounded style to their political satire may find the story fizzles out a bit in the second half. (FIC BUCKLEY)

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