Flashback by Dan Simmons

Flashback by Dan Simmons
Flashback by Dan Simmons

The novel “Flashback” by Dan Simmons was published for the first time in 2011.

Nick Bottom is a former Denver cop who’s become addicted to flashback, a drug that allows him to relive his memories as if they were real, to keep alive the presence of his wife Dara, who died a few years earlier in a car accident. For this reason, his teenage son Val went to live in Los Angeles with his maternal grandfather Leonard Fox.

Despite his problems, Nick Bottom is still considered a good detective and the Japanese billionaire Hiroshi Nakamura hires him to solve the case of his son’s murder, which happened six years earlier and remained unsolved. Information that were kept secret by Nakamura at the time gave Nick a new trace which, however, has very personal implications.

Note. This review is very political but “Flashback” is a novel based on the political element.

In 1993 Dan Simmons published the novelette “Flashback”, in which he introduced the idea of ​​a drug that allows to relive your memories as if they were real exploring the possible consequences of its use, such as the desire to create particularly intense memories to be relived later.

The novel reworks those concepts in a story set in 2036, when the USA is in a heavy state of decay and in practice under the control of Japan. This state of affairs is due to the fact that the USA went bankrupt because of Barack Obama and the money generously given in his administration’s entitlement policy.

“Flashback” is the realization of the American tea party’s worst paranoia. Some areas of the USs have been invaded by Mexicans and without the US military to bomb bring democracy around the world Europe and Canada have fallen under an Islamic domination like Africa and Israel has been destroyed by a nuclear attack.

Dan Simmons continually reiterates that this dystopia is the result of the Obama administration’s policy regarding expenses entitlements and to the disarmament following international treaties. In essence, the problem is in the billions of dollars spent on welfare but not in the trillions spent on various American military operations. The Bush administration is seen as the good old days even if decisions such as the invasion of Iraq trusting intelligence that smelled fake from the start cost many times more than welfare.

Actually, “Flashback” begins as a hard-boiled novel, with its protagonist Nick Bottom who gets hired by Hiroshi Nakamura, a billionaire and influential in US politics, to investigate the death of his son. Dan Simmons wrote a number of novels of that genre, which in this case is developed in a science fiction setting, the problem is that these elements basically have the purpose to mask the political part.

Even when Nick Bottom searches for characters in some way related to the death of young Keigo Nakamura somehow topics such as economy, the role of the US as protectors of the world and the alleged faults of the Obama administration end up being central. The consequence is that sometimes the narration becomes burdened because the investigation seems only an excuse.

This is even more true in the subplots that follow Val and his grandfather Leonard Fox, a former teacher who is perhaps partly inspired by Dan Simmons himself. The chapters that follow the main subplot about Nick Bottom have the numbers 1.x, the ones that follow Val’s subplot have the numbers 2.x and the ones that follow Leonard Fox’s subplot have the numbers 3.x.

Val and his grandfather Leonard’s story is even more targeted to leverage the paranoia of a certain type of people who have a deep tribal sense so they’re afraid of being invaded by strangers and think that being armed to the teeth is the only solution. It’s no coincidence that Texas is the only US state that remained independent and consequently the only hope that white Americans’ tribalism will triumph again.

It’s impossible for me to make a judgment that’s not based on the political element because “Flashback” is basically an anti-Obama rant which, in a very few years, has aged very badly. The trilion-dollar tax-cut for the rich decided by Donald Trump is a figure that is hugely higher to welfare expense making the persistent fury in the novel even more pointless.

“Flashback” actually began in an intriguing way, with Nick Bottom having access to information about Keigo Nakamura’s murder that were kept secret and discovered that his wife was somehow involved. Unfortunately, the story gets soon lost in political preaching and if you don’t share certain paranoia it also becomes boring, especially for the way in which the investigation is developed.

Spoilers for the ending follow! SelectShow
Nick Bottom’s investigation comes to a result only because the solution gets literally put into his hands. Basically, Nakamura hired him because his plan needed an impartial witness to reveal it but there was a serious risk that it would fail because without his wife’s old files Nick wouldn’t have discovered the truth. I don’t remember such a convoluted reasoning at the basis of the plot of a novel. [/Spoiler]

In the end, “Flashback” seems to me a mediocre detective story and therefore, with all its rants, a waste. It contains a number of Shakespeare’s quotes so my judgment could be: much ado about nothing. You can appreciate it if you’re a Donald Trump supporter.

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