A novel by Dan Simmons
Reviewed by Ken West
Flashback is a terrifying thrill ride of a novel about what can happen if the United States goes broke.
As we enter this dystopian near future world of Flashback…
There are only forty states now, with the others devolving into local fiefdoms.
Texas is the only truly independent region and no longer part of the United States.
Cities (except those in Texas) have become crime-infested war zones.
Former sports stadiums are now open-air prisons.
Government health insurance can only ensure that those who need life-saving surgery, will be dead before their place in the nationwide queue becomes available.
Social Security has gone broke and has been suspended.
Entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, have completed the job and bankrupted the nation.
US Soldiers have become de facto mercenaries fighting far-off wars at the behest of other nations.
China has devolved into civil war.
Japan has become a power player, even in the U.S.
The Global Islamic Caliphate has destroyed Israel and has its eyes on all the land available in America.
What has facilitated and made the American population complacent and controllable is an intentionally cheap drug called “Flashback.” When someone is “under the Flash” they can relive their favorite memories from the long ago past. They become addicted.
“Flash gangs” of young people commit crimes, including gang rapes, and then relive their criminal acts with Flashback – over and over and over again.
The main character and reluctant hero of this novel is a disgraced, Flashback addicted detective named Nick Bottom. The story begins when he is hired by a powerful Japanese businessman and regional administrator, to find the killer of the businessman’s son who was murdered many years ago.
Former detective, Nick Bottom, had been a lead investigator on the now cold case. The police were never able to solve the murder.
The story takes us on a Mad Max-like journey across America as the former detective, still a Flashback addict, tries to find the murderer and solve the crime — all for the fortune in “old bucks” that the Japanese businessmen has promised if he succeeds.
(“New bucks” are the almost worthless American currency. Old bucks are the much more valuable currency still backed by gold or other real value.)
This novel is a thrilling and chilling journey through a United States — what’s left of it, and the cities that have become war zones.
Like Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, and Rand’s Anthem, Flashback shows us in startling specificity what a future world will look like if our present trajectory continues to its final, bankrupt destination.
I also highly recommend the Audible edition of this novel. It’s a thrill ride that’s hard to turn off. It may keep you awake, flashing-back to unforgettable scenes.