Review From Alexiad

JIMMY STU LIVES!
By Kent McDaniel
(Penumbra Publishing; 2011;
ISBN 978-1935563839; $9.99;
Kindle: $2.99)

Reviewed by Tom Feller

In Robert Heinlein’s 1940 novella, “If This Goes On —“, a fundamentalist Christian leader is elected President in 2012 and proceeds to suspend the Constitution and turn the United States into a theocracy. In Kent McDaniel’s novel, future events have not gone that far, but the separation of church and state is no longer observed, and you might say that the United States is a semi-theocracy.

McDaniel’s story begins in the present. The main character is The Reverend James Stuart “Jimmy Stu” Sloan, founder of the mega-church Church of the Living Lord (COTLL), a three thousand person congregation in Nashville, Tennessee. A widower, Jimmy Stu has lost his faith and decides to have his body cryogenically frozen when he dies.

He is revived in 2140, when the world in some ways is very different, but in others it is very similar. Besides cryogenics, there are many other technological advances. For long-distance travel, teleportation has replaced flying, and flying cars powered by solar energy are now the norm for everyday use. Androids are prominent in the early parts of the novel. There is still a World Wide Web and blogging, but no one ever reads a newspaper. Physical books are so rare that Jimmy Stu is surprised when he finds one. Computer animation has replaced live actors in broadcast media, and all television is three-dimensional.

However, the political changes are much more interesting. While the United States still exists, power has shifted back to the individual states to such an extent that in some cases a person must have a passport to travel from one state to another. There are no longer Republican and Democratic parties, but instead religious denominations dominate different parts of the country. Jimmy Stu’s old church controls the state and local governments in Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Arkansas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Missouri and shares power in Ohio, Indiana, and southern Illinois. Secular Humanists control the rest of Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana, and most of the Upper Midwest and the Northeast, although in some areas they have to share power with Jews and Catholics. Pentecostals and Baptists dominate the lower Southern states, except for Florida, the Mormons control Utah, and a new denomination, People of the New Age, governs the Pacific Coast. At the federal national level, coalition governments are the new normal. The current President of the United States is Baptist, and her Vice-President is Catholic.

The plot is driven by a division in Jimmy Stu’s old church. The current leaders want to keep him frozen, because they correctly perceive that he would not approve the direction the church has taken since his “death”. A dissenter within the church, who is also a descendant of Jimmy Stu, initiates his revival. Since the church controls law enforcement in Tennessee, they become fugitives. This leads to a series of encounters and adventures.

This novel is a very fast and entertaining read, and, at 168 pages, a little on the short side by today’s standards. I would definitely recommend it for its fascinating depiction of a possible future.

Alexiad is a Louisville-based zine covering the SF field, edited by Joseph T. Major. Tom Feller is the author of numerous books on the SF field.

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About kentmcdanielwrites

Writer and musician.

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