It’s always fun to read a novel written by a fellow immigrant – especially one who escaped from the same region of the world as I did, who consciously chose to become an American, and who appreciates the principles of freedom on which this nation is based. My fellow immigrants, especially those who were born and raised in oppressive environments have a unique appreciation for America. When you grow up in a place where you don’t have opportunities to excel, where corruption is the status quo, where what you read, watch and listen to is regulated by an ever-intrusive state, and where the citizens are rewarded for reporting suspicious activity to a tyrannical government and have no problem turning their friends and family in for a little extra booze or toilet paper, you feel like you begin to breathe again when you step foot onto U.S. soil.
So what happens when your adopted country careens toward the very thing you escaped?
Not every immigrant can write a killer novel, but Marina Fontaine has. Marina’s first novel “Chasing Freedom” avoids the usual mistakes by first time authors and liberty advocates who preach to death the ideology at the expense of the plot. Her book is not a delivery for her ideology. It’s an adventure story about love, perseverance, courage, corruption, the will to fight, and the will to live. I’m not going to post spoilers, because I do want you to pick up this book and read it.
I will tell you it’s focused on a dystopian America that is the logical conclusion of where we are headed if certain elements of society have their way – surveillance state, secret torture rooms for those daring to resist, corrupt government bureaucrats, propaganda, scarce resources, and lack of tolerance for dissent. Amidst over-regulation and lack of respect for human life, a resistance movement grows, featuring characters willing to sacrifice everything to gain freedom. The book focuses on the movement and how it grows. It tracks the resistance fighters from their teenage rebellion years to adulthood. It shows the progress they make and the emotional growth they experience on the way.
You can see how it would be easy to get preachy in this type of plot, but Marina avoids that trap, and presents a story filled with intrigue and action – a story that moves, a story that captures attention, and a story that impacts the heart. She doesn’t engage in lengthy descriptions of how horrible this futuristic America is. You will not find John Galt-length speeches in this book. She allows her characters’ distinct experiences to deliver that message. She doesn’t divide her characters into BAD GOVERNMENT and GOOD REBELS. She presents them as human, faulty, and real.
No, there’s no attempt to awkwardly shove diversity into the novel. It exists organically within the story, and there’s no need to push it.
Yes, there are hideously evil bureaucrats in this book, but not every character is black and white, not every resistance fighter is an angel, and not every government employee is a power-hungry, evil, sub-human piece of garbage.
And finally, what I really enjoyed about “Chasing Freedom” was that it didn’t focus on the darkness. Yes, it’s a pretty depressing vision of America. Yes, there are points that will break your heart. But at the same time, it’s a story of optimism – a refusal to surrender to the darkness and a brighter future.
Pick it up. You’ll like it.