This weekend’s Wall Street Journal included a nice review of Tropic of Kansas by Tom Shippey—an unexpected highlight of a great weekend that also included an exceptional installment of Armadillocon, Austin’s annual conference on imaginative literature.
And this morning, my interview with Rick Kleffel at the KQED studios in San Francisco is now available online (in both 1-hour and 7-minute versions), after airing on several Northern California NPR affiliates. Rick also has a generous review of Tropic of Kansas, asserting the book is neither dystopian nor utopian, but merely “utopian”—telling it like it is:
…As hellish as things look; climate change, economic disaster, and Untied, not United States – Brown is happy to offer us some solace as well. Not everybody with a modicum of power buys into the madness. The possibility for real change is present, and low technology is there to help. The experience of reading Tropic of Kansas is thrilling not just because Brown is a masterful plotter with Sig (sort of) maturing into a genuine hero, the kind of character that makes readers want to cheer out loud. One of the major thrill here is realizing that this is not the future. It’s the present, lightly re-mixed, with a plot that reality sadly seems to lack.
It’s hard to turn the pages fast enough as you read Tropic of Kansas. Brown writes set-pieces with a powerfully cinematic eye, but remembers to invest them in character. And, as you are reading, Brown’s visionary writing and world will drop your jaws every time his perceptions laser their way into the heart of today. This happens early and often; importantly, the book was written well before today, so that Brown’s vision seems topical without resorting to “ripped from the headlines.”
It’s also critical that this is not Another Book About the Dire, Awful World. Things are bad in Tropic of Kansas, but not entirely so. There’s a soupcon of “getting-better-ability” even in the most horrific situations. This isn’t dystopian or utopian fiction, but just, what you might call “Topian,” which is to say a system that has Humans in it and thus is incapable of reaching Heaven or Hell. We can imagine both, but we know in our hearts that it’s Purgatory for us…”
Wall Street Journal—”Double Dystopia“
Narrative Species/Agony Column—”Christopher Brown’s Tropic of Kansas: Topian Fiction”