In his novel Every 400 Years, retired professor Kerry Burns offers a futurist’s look at the corrupting influence of government sanctioned prostitution and mandated distribution of goods and services. His Orwellian novel is set in the 25th Century, where a new world government has evolved from a cataclysmic destruction in the 21st Century. After 400 years of recovery, times are good for the privileged few, but many are disenfranchised and have nothing. The world government is ineffective, and the disenfranchised ‘savages’ living in the California/Nevada desert reach the point of revolt.
Situated on the edge of the desert east of Los Angeles, the aptly named town of Paradita is the location of many of the world government pleasure houses. Star Dream is a very successful madam of the Cleopatra Pleasure House. Star owes her success to her beautiful body, which she displays openly by walking nude through the Cleopatra to greet customers. Star is also successful at collecting information, and Danny Ross is one of her spies.
As this futuristic look at California opens, Ramona, a 36-year-old scientist, leaves work early because she feels queasy and light-headed. Distracted, she drives her car into the path of a ‘prime status’ car carrying a religious leader to the Paradita Temple where he is to perform the equinox ritual. Danny Rose is the driver of the Prime’s car.
Neither driver is cited, but Public Safety holds both for examination and testing. Ramona is at fault for driving poorly, distracted by the physical effects of a pregnancy she knew nothing about, and Danny Ross is at fault because he was stoned on Dream Gas from his recent visit to the Cleopatra. The off-setting faults cancel each other according to Public Safety guidelines, and charges are dropped.
But, the accident has interfered with an important religious ceremony, and Danny Ross is evaluated by his boss Ishmael Guyirere, a Sufi:
“Ross has no connections, no reputation, and not even any important relatives. Damn, I’d like to throw him to the wolves at Public Safety. And then the way the ritual ended. They don’t know it, but I heard the voice outside the knowing room. What could ‘enough, you have your answer’ mean? Further, the ritual in March was so strange. We didn’t get anything that made sense. Only those crackling noises and the sighing.”
—Burns, Every 400 Years
News of the accident spreads from Paradita to the regional government:
“Two hundred miles northwest of Paradita was Bay City. The remains of old San Francisco were incorporated in a larger city which had the bay as its center. At the top of a hill in a pyramid shaped building was the headquarters of the regional Prime. He sat in his room thinking about the incident two weeks ago.”
—Burns, Every 400 Years
The regional Prime is thinking about the car accident and about the successive failures of the equinox rituals. Trouble is brewing and the Religious Cabal does not know where to turn for a solution.
The next equinox Ramona’s baby is born, and she is given the name Mary Edyth. As the years pass the problems with rituals continue and unrest in the desert increased to the point of insurrection and revolt. Paradita becomes unsafe for the privileged to visit. Finally, the Scientist Cabal looses faith in finding a solution to the unrest and Hugh is put in charge of building a shelter and secure outpost for the scientists and other elite members of the government.
The outpost selected by the Scientists is at Yucca Mountain, the abandoned nuclear storage facility partly built in the 20th Century. The final scenes of this novel play out in the Nevada desert and Yucca Mountain. Star Dream, wearing clothes, is one of the elite that is saved, but what does the future have in store for the survivors? Burns presents in this book a gloomy scenario for the future. The world government and the scientists can’t seem to escape from an organization model of advantages for the privileged to the exclusion of the less fortunate. I hope he’s wrong.
Every 400 Years is published by BookLocker.com, Inc. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The quality of the printed version is top-notch. The softbound volume is $16.95; the eBook is $4.99. Like many self-published novels, Every 400 Years could benefit from another pass of editing and proof-reading, but it’s an interesting read on a challenging topic.
BookLocker is a POD (print on demand) publisher. A print-ready book can be published for $500, but most books cost more.
In the interest of full disclosure, Kerry Burns and I went to high school together.
Week 28 -2012: Every 400 Years, Kerry Burns (2012).