This month's Siren's Call: A broken America in Dan Simmons' 'Flashback'
The David Fincher film of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" has already been called in trailers "the feel bad movie of Christmas"; I guess you could say that Dan Simmons' new novel, "Flashback," reviewed in this month's Siren's Call, could be called the "feel-bad imagined history of America."
Unlike many speculative novels that fabricate circumstances out of thin air, Simmons' story teases out issues existing now, including national and global economic disaster, terrorism, an overextended military and the public's untiring addiction to everything, whether drugs or junk food or low-brow gossip.
Don't worry, though: As dark as this sounds, "Flashback" isn't a bummer of a read -- Simmons balances this grim picture with a compelling noirish mystery. A detective tries to thaw out a six-year-old cold case with the help of a wildly popular drug called flashback that enables users to have vivid experiences of their memories. By taking the drug, the detective can "relive every conversation with the witnesses and suspects and other detectives involved.” Simmons gives us an unexpected perspective on memory and oblivion that taps the ideas of Proust and the myth of the lotus eaters in Homer, which makes it perfectly suited for this column.
-- Nick Owchar
Photo: Deserted street near town of Los Alamos, N.M., 2011 Credit: Larry W. Smith / EPA