San Francisco activist Christopher Kalman has little to show for years spent organizing non-violent marches, speak-outs, blockades, and shutdowns for social and environmental justice. When a shadowy eco-saboteur proposes an attack on genetically engineered agriculture, Christopher is ripe to be drawn into a more dangerous game. His certainty that humankind stands on the brink of ecological ruin drives Christopher to reckless acts and rash alliances, pitting grave personal risk against conscientious passion.
*I received a review copy from the author.
If you want to gain insight into the life of an activist, then Steve Masover’s first novel, Consequence, is for you.
Steve Masover has characterized his novel as pre-apocalyptic, but it could also be described as a political thriller. The story revolves around Christopher Kalman, an activist in the San Francisco Bay Area who is looking for a way to make his contributions really count. He finally gets a chance, via cryptic messaging with a man he refers to as Chagall.
Though Christopher has no way of knowing Chagall’s true intentions, and he knows there could be great risk working with someone so secretive, after many well-protected conversations, he becomes comfortable with what Chagall promises and decides to go ahead and work with the man. But working with Chagall means keeping secrets, especially from his chosen family, the activists he lives with in San Francisco known as the collective.
The second half of Consequence is fast-paced and sees several well-foreshadowed twists play out. Christopher and the rest of the collective have to endure many struggles and learn the hard way what kind of people they really are. The characters are well fleshed out, and their backgrounds and motives are clear. However, the beginning of the story felt a little slow for me, partly because so much of it was spent explaining in great detail everyone’s politics. There are also a lot of characters, and several side plots that didn’t seem to quite tie in with the main story.
But the last half of the book brings up an interesting theme about family. Christopher has his chosen family, the collective, and his real family, his father, a professor, and his brother Marshall, a businessman rich from the stock market. Christopher sees the world very differently from his real family, and so after his mother’s death he stopped seeing his dad and Marshall as much.
*Potential Spoiler Alerts*
Although Christopher’s decision to work with Chagall is risky, he is not completely reckless. He pays close attention to the people around him, in particular his friend Brendan, who recently came back to the Bay after being in jail in Mexico. Brendan was part of a movement in Mexico, but was either betrayed or in the wrong place at the wrong time. After Brendan’s stint in jail, he feels differently about the world.
Christopher makes note of this when he hears second-hand that Brendan said “only your blood family steps up when things get really bad.” And in a roundabout way, Christopher places his trust in his brother Marshall over his chosen family when Christopher finds himself in a situation similar to Brendan’s.
Consequence is set shortly after 9/11 in San Francisco, and feels very authentic to both the time and place. The author also nicely builds up tension between the activists and the people they disagree with, showing, for the most part, two sides of the same story.
If you’re looking for a political thriller, with complex characters, then consider picking up a copy of Steve Masover’s Consequence.
Genre: Political fiction / pre-apocalyptic