Saturday, November 11, 2017

''Radio Free Vermont'' is a debut cli-fi caper of a novel by new American humorist Bill McKibben

Book Review: ''Radio Free Vermont'' is a debut cli-fi caper of a novel by American humorist Bill McKibben

[Slightly edited by reposter for amplification and humor]

Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance by Bill McKibben

Welcome to Vermont in the winter of 2017 A.D. (''anno donaldo''). Donald Trump has been ''elected'' president, the winters are more mid-atlantic mud-fest than snowy paradise, and the strange, unique state of Vermont seems more and more in danger of becoming ....

Enter Vern Barclay, a radio show host and current leader of a quiet underground movement seeking a free, independent republic of Vermont. Vern comes into his activism more by accident than by malicious intent, but before he knows it, he has become the leader of a movement dedicated to keeping Vermont small, fair, weird, beautiful, and free.

[Btw, the book is dedicated on its Dedication Page to someone called, well, it reads "For Spunky Knowsalot." Who could that be? A fellow Vermonter? Edward Abbey of sainted memory? Who? More on this later when the word leaks out...]

As a University of Vermont alum and as a former resident of the state, I always enjoy reading stories focused on my former home. McKibben has created a small, odd tale of resistance that mirrors the small, odd state of its setting. Even when I lived in Vermont (which is about 10 years ago), you could walk into a restaurant and know exactly where the food you were eating came from.

Vermont was a localvore haven long before the word was invented. The state is home to way more microbreweries and distilleries than you think you may need. The funky, friendly, live-and-let-live attitude of the majority of the state means that you can have your hippy-dippy Subaru and co-op grocery, and your handguns too. Add to all this the fact that Vermont, being small yet mighty, has made overtures of independence and succession in the past. In fact, one area of the state, called the Northeast Kingdom gets its name from an unsuccessful attempt at sovereignty when the country was young.

What we have in Radio Free Vermont is an uplifting (though very, very white) story of resistance Vermont style, involving calm discussion, reasoned arguments, lots of local beer, minor property damage, cross country skiers, and no violence. This is a resistance with an undercurrent of subtle Yankee humour. This is a resistance of the intimately local, and of neighborly cooperation. It is not loud, or violent, but it is the spark of something beautiful and funny that helps light the darkness of our current times.

An advance copy of this cli-fi novel was provided by the publisher via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest and frank review, even though I didn't even notice the Spunky Knowsalot dedication page.

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