Saturday, July 20, 2013

25 Perfect Days by Mark Tullius

25 Perfect DaysA totalitarian state doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s a slow, dangerous slide. 25 Perfect Days chronicles the path into a hellish future of food shortages, contaminated water, sweeping incarceration, an ultra-radical religion, and the extreme measures taken to reduce the population.

25 Perfect Days is a collection of short stories that span 40 years and charts the downfall of the U.S.A. It gets off to a great start with "Five Minutes Alone", a powerful short story that stands on its own as it weighs in on capital punishment. "Fourteen Angry Marchers" is next and highlights a pivotal moment in the history of the Church of the American Way, a fictitious Christian outfit which takes full advantage of President Bush's faith-based initiative and expands its reach through a clever argument.

With the separation of church and state erased, it's all downhill from here. The rest of the book ticks off the loss of freedoms as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and atrocities are revealed that would make North Korea jealous. But the problem is: we don't know how all the safeguards we have now were circumvented to allow it to happen. Tullius skips anywhere from nine months to four years between stories and doesn't explain how these terrible edicts came to pass. His failure to do so makes many of them too incredulous to believe. We must somehow just accept them and I cannot.

Except for "Fourteen Angry Marchers" we really don't get to see the motivations behind the Church of the American Way. That story contains the incident which shapes the young leader's future but that's all we have to go on. While the incident is a dramatic one, and certainly life changing, it doesn't explain how this Christian man transforms into a monster on par with Hitler.

Another complaint I have is that there's some repetition in story structure. In several stories, we're introduced to Character A who sets out to accomplish something. The bad guys show up. Then Character B (or Character A) sacrifices themselves so that A (or B) can get away. It's a bit too formulaic, though a successful one.

But enough criticism. Tullius is a skilled writer. Despite the multitude of characters and their limited appearances on stage (Thank you for the character glossary), they make the most of their time. Besides the two stories mentioned above, other standouts are "Four Percent", "Ten Drops of Bleach", "Six Hail Mary's", and "Eight Out of Nine".

Tullius cites Stephen King as a influence and it shows in the everyday personalities of the characters and the frankness of dealing with grim situations, not to mention that bad things happen to good people. He's also good at building suspense and sometimes throws a surprise at you that you won't see coming.

For more information, visit the author's website.

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