Kurt Schlichter’s Indian Country is Red Dawn, without the teenager point of view and without the need to have our Marxists imported via air-drop. To paraphrase ‘Send in the Clowns’, don’t bother, they’re here. Although a polemic in favor of the 2nd Amendment, the overall structure is a straightforward action story or perhaps a military fiction novel.
This is a prequel to Schlichter’s first novel ‘People’s Republic’. The main character in both novels, Kelly Turnbull, is already barely leashed killer who deals with his enemies only one way: by shooting them. I said in my review of the first novel by Mr. Schlichter that it was basically a shooter video game in book form and that’s much the same here. There are no clever insurgency plots and subplots*, no infiltration and espionage, no kidnapping and interrogation, no eroding humanity or moral compromise, no sabotage or work slowdowns or any of the shenanigans you’d see in a real insurgency before the shooting starts. Nope, this is just a shooting gallery. Take that for what it is.
And…that might even be deliberate. It isn’t in the text but I can also see a plot by one of the shadowy characters in the novel, Clay Deeds. In the novel, shadowy spook sends Kelly Turnbull to organize a non-violent insurgency. Instead, Kelly starts threatening and then shooting people, precipitating an open guerilla war which the Red states are able to exploit with an armed invasion. It’s almost like Clay Deeds send in a loose cannon with a short fuse and expected an explosion and chaos…and moved to exploit it. Which would be clever of him. Sadly, my theory is just that, there’s nothing in the text to confirm it, even at the end when Deeds picks up Turnbull.
And I don’t mean this is a bad book. There is some confusion about who is president (there is references to President Hillary Clinton and later President Elizabeth Warren, maybe I missed a transfer of power) but the prose is fine and otherwise error-free. The good guys and bad guys are pretty clear (hint: the bad guys shoot unarmed civilians), the action is clear as well and the book is fast-paced. If you like action movies, you’ll probably like this.
Plot: After being recruited by a shadowy government operative, Kelly Turnbull has been killing people and breaking things in the shadows. The United States are no more, the country has divided into Blue and Red largely along electoral lines from the past few years. The Blue States have formed The People’s Republic- a Progressive dystopia obsessed with speech codes, racial grievance and social justice backed by armed thugs given carte blanche to intimidate, steal and kill. The Red States are not featured much in this novel but they basically are comprised of the South and Midwest. Currently the states are intact, either all in or all out of the respective nations, but there is tensions between the red regions of blue states and the militarized Red States are ready to attack but at the moment, negotiations are happening off-screen to try for a peaceful separation.
The setting is southern Indiana, the ‘Indian Country’ of the novel, where the locals are mostly rural or small town folk who want to be left alone but aren’t being permitted to. The new government is dictation production of items, what you can buy and sell and what you can say and think. Things are taking a turn for the tragic and authoritarian.
Insert Kelly Turnbull, a Special Forces operator/spook who likes to shoot people…even if he doesn’t have to. Or has specific orders not to. In this case, he is here to organize resistance but is told not to start a shooting war. He does anyway. Despite some passive-aggressive ‘I’m not here to fight for you or tell you what to do’, Kelly Turnbull does just that. Provoking fights, shooting people and tipping things from tense to murderous. Once the shooting starts, he organizes the guerillas against the People’s Republic thugs and the military units that have stayed with the Blue states….including one of his former commanders.
The action was the strong point for me. I like gunfights in my stories and this novel delivers them. I like bad guys to get punished (see my gunfight comment) and that happens here as well. Kelly Turnbull’s former commander gets to play ‘noble warrior’ who gets betrayed for not being PC enough and he’s likeable. I like competent people doing things. Kelly Turnbull does care about the Constitution as it was, as do I. Local redneck Larry Langer is legitimately heroic.
Kelly Turnbull is kind of a dick. He is a one-dimensional, doesn’t care about any one, neither people nor animals.
The plot is too streamlined, I was expecting a game of cat and mouse or for the bad guys to be more than just targets. But that’s not what kind of novel this is.
Most of my problems with the novel are missed opportunities rather than anything I didn’t like. This could have been more well-rounded, more subtle, with personal stakes for the main character. I was expecting the story of how Kelly Turnbull became a quick-killing badass, I was expecting a story of counter-insurgency horror. But Kelly Turnbull is already murderous and jaded when we meet him. He doesn’t lose his innocence or become hardened by the horror of war, of family fighting family (in fact, there’s very little friend vs friend or family vs family in this book…a big miss in a Second Civil War novel).
What scared me:
What felt like a running joke, about social justice scolds correcting people about using ‘hate speech’ or ‘gender identity’, is feeling shockingly accurate. As is the feeling that Progressives don’t want to convince people who disagree with them anymore, they want to kill them. I put the novel down to see Kathy Griffin holding up a bloody severed head of a Donald Trump mannequin. I read quotes from the Evergreen State rioters who were threatening the life of a white teacher who refused to leave campus on their annual ‘Day of Absence’. I see the mayor of Portland saying that there’s no first amendment protection for ‘hate speech’.
And I started getting a queasy feeling in my stomach. Maybe this isn’t just a mindless novel allowing the author to vicariously kill Progressives he doesn’t like. Maybe this is actually a prescient cautionary tale from the world we’re turning into.
*(for an example of what I mean, please read the excellent novella ‘Wasp’ by Eric Frank Russel)