2028 * Ken Saunders

‘This is not quite how Peter Dutton imagines our dystopian future: crap technology, paranoid spies, cycling activists and even dumber politicians. Set phasers to stupid. Hilarious.’ –Wendy Harmer

https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/9781760631062

Welcome to the Australia of 2028 where parking meters double as poker machines, radio shock jocks have been automated, the Communist Party of China has turned itself into a multinational corporation and ASIO’s glory days are so far over that it’s resorting to surveillance of a Charles Dickens reading group.

Outrageous, sharp and wickedly funny, 2028 takes us into the near future where the not very good ideas around today have become ten years worse.

Prime Minister Fitzwilliams could not help but feel that this cabinet, his carefully constructed cabinet, was an uninspiring group. They were what he called ‘lifers’: MPs who thought the way to get ahead was by keeping their own head down, hitching one’s wagon to the strongest horse around and being very, very careful where one used one’s credit card. Duration was their measure of success. Reliable, steadfast, said some. Dullards, the Prime Minister thought—with very few exceptions.

The book was an interesting read with a few quaint observations – mostly about politics and gadgets and there were a few things I really enjoyed.

I wish it had gotten a bigger following in the UK but since it’s so Aussie-centered, not a lot of things are relevant to the reader. Nevertheless, funny.

Lustathon emerged from urban myth to nightly news during the 20:20 Vision project. An anarchist cell staged a dramatic gas attack in the Melbourne financial district, simultaneous issuing a statement to the media claiming to have released the libido-raising gas. No one really knew if Lustathon existed, let alone in gas form; certainly, in the Melbourne attack, the gas released was a harmless substitute.

However, the disruption was enormous, far beyond what the anarchists had hoped. What they hadn’t anticipated was the so-called placebo effect on hard-working financial officers and day traders who believed they were under a Lustathon gas attack. The ensuing pandemonium and sexual abandon severely damaged the reputation of many distinguished firms in the financial sector.

Almost ten years ago, two thousand eight hundred and eighty-seven Australian citizens changed their names by deed poll to Ned Ludd, and formed a political party. Careful surveillance has revealed that, apart from an annual movie night, they have since not registered a single blip on the political radar. Until now.

It was time for cold political calculation. If Labor won outright, he’d resign and make it effective immediately. If his government won the most seats, but lost its majority, he would announce he was stepping down as PM but wouldn’t resign his seat. He wouldn’t open an easy by-election route for Damian Boswell to get back into caucus. If the Luddites won enough seats that they had a chance to form government, Fitzwilliams didn’t know what he would do—probably ask Olga O’Rourke what she thought best. She was still technically an adviser to him.

Saunders has a politician opining on former PMs who: “cease to contribute meaningfully, content to write self-indulgent memoirs and the occasional smug know-it-all opinion pieces for Fairfax or News Corp.” He could have added “or sit on the backbench spitefully undermining the current leader and destabilising the party.”

His Luddites see “…the major flaw of our current system is that one party has the role of generating all the ideas to govern and the other party has the responsibility of barking and frothing at them like a pack of rabid dogs. We need an entirely different approach. Everyone in parliament should be there to govern. Everyone should be there to listen to each other in order to decide matters.” If Saunders’s tale is at all prescient then a Vote 1 Ned Ludd campaign would doubtless result in a landslide victory.

This is a brilliant debut novel: insightful, topical and utterly hilarious and, no matter what their political leanings, all Australians of or near voting age should read this.

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