Published: Monday, October 22nd, 2012
View edited article here
David Danson/Ian Caird
Guy Faux Books
I’m ready to admit it; I’m a huge fan of alternate history, no matter how insane the setting may be. Unfortunately, a lot of them seem to fall into the trappings of the old ‘What if Hitler won?’ premise. While alternate history fiction is by no means dead, they do often tend to pose the same questions.
Faultine 49 successfully avoids the trappings of cliches that come with alternate history with its unusual, yet well-presented, premise. The book follows its author David Danson’s (really, the pen name of real author Ian Caird), career as a journalist in a post-9/11 world. Only that in the world of Faultline 49, the September 11 attacks don’t take place at the World Trade Center in New York City, but rather, at the World Trade Center in Edmonton, Alberta. Following the
attacks, various controversies arise, regarding the true identity of the bomber and his national origin, as well as the CIA’s involvement in suppressing said information, which eventually leads to the occupation of Canada by the United States over outbreaks of civilian violence. This hostile environment creates a breeding ground for civilian-formed guerrilla factions who seek to drive out the American invaders.
Now, dismissing this book as nothing more than Red Dawn with Canadians and Americans would be simplifying the premise to a fault (no pun intended, seriously), and a grave injustice. Rather than cheaply showing an ongoing battle between militant Canadian underdogs and imperialistic US troops, the book instead presents post-9/11 politics as they really happened in our world, with a setting closer to home.
Faultline 49 is essentially split into a historical and autobiographical narrative, giving Danson the chance to mold the book’s universe and create a story within it. The historical sections seek to give a detailed account of the WTCE bombings and the aftermath. These sections are where the book truly shines. Danson shows proficiency at creating an interesting alternate universe while appropriately utilizing well-known real-life figureheads and political pundits (interestingly enough, featuring Ann Coulter being a loudmouthed buffoon, as per usual), creating a believable world. The book appeals to the political scientist’s desire for accuracy, with the incredibly detailed fictional history of the post-WTCE world, and to the casual reader’s desire for a good yarn with its Neutral-Journalist-in-Peril story.
The autobiographical narrative of the book begins in media res, following Danson around gonzo-style in his quest as a journalist alongside various rebel groups that sprung from the ashes of the civil wars, documenting their causes and actions. In the vein of Black Hawk Down, Danson involves himself within the ongoing story rather than stay a fly-on-the-wall participant. Not necessarily weaker than the historical sections, I nevertheless am partial to them only out of personal preference. I will however objectively state that the storyline is entertaining and uses its constructed universe quite well.
The book has already stirred some minor controversy with some seeking to boycott the book for supposed anti-American themes, but the truth is, Faultline 49 is hardly anti-American. Rather, it tells a story that we are all-too-familiar with, from the perspective of an alternate universe. It tells a story of politics, bureaucracy, human jealousy, xenophobia and greed destroying rationality, creating nations of fear and loathing comprised of otherwise sane people.
And it tells that story ever so well.
In the end, Faultline 49 is a book that’s hard not to recommend, whether you’re looking for a serious political thriller, or a well-constructed alternate modern world.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆