Book Review: A Death of Honor by Joe Clifford Faust (1987)

I bought this book for $1.00 at Hooked on Books in Springfield, Missouri, and it should serve as something of a reminder to me. Avoid the books with the red dots on the spine. If the book store puts them on carts outside, it’s because they don’t care if someone steals the book.

All right, it’s late and I am being melodramatic; the book’s not that bad, but its pacing reminded me of walking through thigh-deep water in blue jeans. Sure, it’s occasionally cool, occasionally exciting, but you’ve got to slog a way to get there.

The book is set in a 1987 dystopian future, where the Soviets have pretty much overrun Europe and the East, Canada and Mexico have sealed their borders to isolate us to not piss off the Soviet hegemon, and the only free country is Australia, and everyone wants letters of transit to the promised former penal colony–which is why when Ugarte….sorry, wrong plot there. But America has militarized into a fascist state, where the state raises children and rewards people for procreation. As a result, society revolves around dance clubs with copulation chambers in the back. In this world of countless constitutional amendments and daily terrorist bombings by one aggrieved group or another, crime investigations often fall to the primary suspects–who can exercise their 31st and look into crimes of which they’re accused.

This amendment comes in handy when Payne, a bioengineer, finds a corpse in his apartment. After the authorities come several hours after Payne calls them, they leave a yellow claim ticket that gives Payne permission, under his 31st amendment rights, to all materials the authorities gather; Payne originally decides to not investigate on his own, but he’s attacked by someone who wants the ticket, so he decides to investigate. Fortunately, he’s a bioengineer, because some biology is involved. Interspersed with the interpersonal melodrama in Payne’s life and the exposition about the state of the world, Payne does a lot of meticulously and dryly detailed technical things with lab equipment. Perhaps this can be done now. Perhaps it’s something in a biologist’s current fantasies. Who am I to care? Just the reader, and fortunately a dedicated one at that.

But, as I indicated, the plot offers just enough interest through the first half to make you think maybe, maybe it’s going to pick up. And it does, around page 140 (of 273). Finally, action moves along more quickly than explication, revelation replaces mere investigation, or at least the pages turned; perhaps the wind was just blowing more from a righterly direction to give them a good tail wind.

So it’s not a good pick up if you’re looking for a set-in-the-dark-near-future sci fi novel, or a medical thriller, to both of which this book undoubtedly aspires. However, it’s an interesting and heartening bit of historical perspective into the fictional nightmares projected from current evens that are now history. I mean, encircled by the Soviets, with even Mexico against us, and nary a Wolverine in sight? How strangely inspiring that our own current dark times might be so suddenly resolved, all of our worst fears overturned by resolution and confrontation of danger.

Until our future current dark times arrive, of course.