By Ted Brownstein
Sunshine Republic is a dystopian science fiction novel by Ted Brownstein.
It's the year 2130 and the newly independent Republic of Florida is deeply divided over the use of technology, the Futurist party believe that their society could be vastly improved by the use of cheap, abundant robot labour and are trying to get their mayoral candidate M. Forrest Newcomb elected. Opposition to this invasive use of technology is everywhere - ingrained in a deeply distrusting and paranoid populace, this fear and hatred is being manifested in many forms including gangs of drunken vigilantes roam the streets terrorizing anyone they deem to be pro-futurist.
In this technophobic republic Robots are banned and it's the Futurist party who are trying their very best to get this changed and educate the populous, this is the basic premise behind the story and along the way we have the commentary on politics, human rights, religion and societies acceptance of intelligent technologies.
The novel follows a lazy, lucky detective who stumbles across the arrest of his career and the majority of the story is told by the use of flashbacks from the perspective of the perpetrator after his memories are digitised and then "dramatised". It's these flashbacks that lay the groundwork and backstory and introduces the myriad themes running through the story.
I must admit that it took me quite some time to really like this novel but the more you read the more it grows on you. The main issue is the very disjointed style of narrative which seems to change feeling and direction at the drop of a hat. I can see that in many ways the author is trying to pay tribute to other author's styles but this results in a bit of a confusing miss-mash. The other issue is the sheer scale of ideas presented, there is just too much going on and while some of the ideas are top notch, others are a bit on the dubious side. As such it becomes difficult for the reader to form that all important suspension of disbelief.
There are some real gems of ideas though and the quality of the writing saves the book from being unreadable, and despite the heavy use of exposition in places the plot is actually fairly fast. Towards the end I did really find myself enjoying the story but I was never as immersed as I really wanted to be.
The world building is one of the best parts of the book, this dystopian vision is very well detailed one and in parts quite credible, I love the idea of the states being ruled independently and there is a very strong feel of a dark, oppressive and lawless society on the streets of Florida. Sunshine Republic is a great story and is worth reading at least once, I just feel that with a more consistent voice and fewer ideas it could me so much better.
Written on 13th April 2011 by Ant .