J.M. Porup’s The United States of Air

I didn’t put up this corner of the web with the intention of reviewing books (or anything else, really), but I read something not too long ago that deserves a mention. It’s a satirical novel called The United States of Air, by a guy named J.M. Porup. As one might expect of a work by an author who makes note of his intention to renounce his American citizenship, it is not overly enthusiastic regarding the current policy objectives of the United States government. It’s also very funny.

Porup has billed his work as “A satire that mocks the War on Terror,” which is a pretty complete description, actually. The basic premise is that rather than a war on terror, the U.S. has declared a global war on fat, and is promoting air as an alternative to food. This allows Porup to make use of a number of absurd and hilarious security technologies – such as “toilet taps” to identify “food terrists” – as nakedly unsubtle but very funny stand-ins for the currently expanding security state we’re now dealing with. It’s all shamelessly over the top, ridiculous, heavy handed and somewhat bitter, which is exactly what one should want in a political satire. I’d characterize it as the sort of thing Jonathan Swift might have produced had he ever been employed by National Lampoon, with a dash of South Park. It’s not going to persuade any Patriot Act fans to shape up in the ethics department, but it is funny, inexpensive and easy to get over at Smashwords.  It is not a profound or brilliant piece that might save us all, but it is an honest, hostile and often clever look at post 9/11 cognitive dissonance through a simultaneously absurd and banal dystopia.  Besides, government agents ranked by waist size hunting food criminals in smart cars pretty much can’t miss if you’re looking for a laugh.  I found it a welcome bit of on topic comic relief in my otherwise serious and depressing reading list.

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