Click on this link to Writestream Tuesday: ‘Chasing Freedom’ with Marina Fontaine at 1 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday, January 19 to listen online as Daria Anne DiGiovanni interviews Marina Fontaine about her debut novel. During the live show, call in with your questions at (347) 945-7246 (press “1” to get into the queue) to join the live chat room.
Synopsis for ‘Chasing Freedom’:
Freedom is lost, but not forgotten. In 2040s America, civility is prized above truth, conformity above free expression, and “green” living above basic human needs. Most have given up, too busy trying to survive in a country where life is cheap and necessities are scarce. Yet even in the midst of drudgery and despair, unbroken spirits remain.
Julie is a girl who has everything, including a plan to ignite the spark of resistance. Randy dreams of winning Julie’s love and escaping the emptiness of over-regulated life. Joseph seeks revenge on the system for a family tragedy. Daniel is a young artist, who can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Chris is an orphan prepared to do the unthinkable to protect his younger sister.
Whether by choice or by accident, each will take a path on a collision course with the oppressive regime.
Political upheaval, oppressive new government regimes, a new generation of video-gaming teens, and a few brave rebels who dare to fight for that old-fashioned brand of freedom that American was known for: you may think you’ve seen it all before, but I’ve never read a novel like this one. Born and raised in the former Soviet Union, Marina Fontaine has learned the concept of art as weapon. Depending on who wields the power, our cultural icons—artists, writers, singers, actors—can serve oppression or freedom, conformity or subversion.
Set in the near future, “Chasing Freedom” opens in a United States you won’t recognize. The cast of characters is richly drawn: Real people. Real passion. Fighting the new government that turned America from the world’s greatest nation, the envy of the world, the heart’s desire of illegal immigrants, into a place to flee. Our current border problem is that of U.S. citizens escaping into Canada – the new land of opportunity. Even Mexico is doing better than the U.S.: “Long ago, illegal immigration had been moving in the opposite direction, with Mexicans sneaking into the US. … Today, Mexico was a banking haven and a great place to live, assuming one had enough money.”
The place to stay *free and alive* is no longer the United States? If that doesn’t sound surreal, picture horse-drawn wagons carrying ex-patriot Americans from the cities (oh, the cities), through Amish country, to Canada. The caravans are guarded by notoriously dangerous “Guides” who are nowhere near as scary as their reputations. That’s all part of the carefully orchestrated propaganda of The Rebels.
Ah, those rebels! For all the flack and lack of respect our video-gaming children get, it’s fun to see a positive spin on this generation. While the most of the adults just get with the program, or get killed or exiled, the teenagers use their gaming and hacking skills to launch a revolution.
It’s no job for slackers. When caught, some of our favorite characters face death or dismemberment in a torture facility. Not everyone comes out alive, but most do. More than one needs a prosthetic hand afteward, and help with PTSD nightmares.
The “Easter Eggs” are fun, and the characters are fun-loving and funny, when they’re not being tortured or separated from their loved ones. Their code name would make sense only if anyone in government surveillance had read the iconic novel that supplies the name Ragnar Danneskjold, a hot Viking-philosopher-pirate. (Nope, not telling you what novel he’s in.) Those caravans to Canada, “Cruz Lines,” were in the story long before a certain politician entered the race to become U.S. President. (I know this because I’ve been reading this manuscript since it first began as a short story. A chapter at a time, I’ve seen it unfold, expand, and morph into a novel.)
Revolutions seldom change the world overnight. Years pass (and Fontaine dates each new chapter for our benefit). Our quirky teenage rebels grow up. Two of them have a child together but are forced to let him grow up in safety with another family. Daniel the artist, dismissed as “too soft” by his girlfriend’s father, turns out to be anything but. Chris, who will do whatever it takes to keep his little sister out of foster care, finally reaches legal adult status and escapes the morally degrading system. Randy starts out as a nerd who’d steal to buy that precious commodity, strawberries. Daniel sells a rare and treasured orange – yes, a mere piece of citrus fruit we take for granted – in exchange for something he values more than his own health. Julie, the girl of Randy’s dreams, earns the kind of face- and name-recognition that today’s celebrities get just for “entertainment” value.
There’s more, so much more, but even some of the authors I’ve reviewed have said my reviews are daunting in length.
This novel is a feast of memorable characters, a great theme, a great cause. English is Marina Fontaine’s second language, but nothing in her prose gives that way. Her word economy is enviable. She cuts to the chase — chasing freedom. Fast paced, funny and heart-rending, spanning decades, but ultimately triumphant, this is a riveting dystopian thriller with fun-loving, vivid characters, the kind who become household names, the way Charlie Brown trusting Lucy with a football is “just fiction” but also a universal truth.
i promised that at this blog, I’ll post a longer review with excerpts from the novel – if more than one person should happen to tell me via the “comment” button at amazon that they’d read a longer book review than this. Maybe I just need to form a Discussion group instead – I’ve yet to take advantage of that feature at the bottom of the Amazon review page. Speaking of groups, Marina Fontaine has one over at goodreads. You might have heard of the mysterious Masha. Her debut novel may very well make her a household name.
Hmm, anyone can create a book discussion group over at goodreads, too. Who’d join me?
Born and raised in the former Soviet Union, Marina Fontaine is a proud American who appreciates an opportunity to enjoy pro-freedom art and share it with the world through reviews and social media. She runs a Small Government Book Fan Club on Goodreads and has co-founded a Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance group on Facebook.
Marina lives in New Jersey with her very supportive husband, three children and four guinea pigs.