These are reviews originally posted to Amazon as customer reviews. They're intended for entertainment and informational purposes only. (Apologies for any typos, bad grammar, or offensive language.) This isn't sponsored by Amazon or represent them in any way, although they do have a very nice site and I recommend checking it out for your next book purchase. Feel free to comment on the books if you've read them or tell me how much my reviews suck or whatever.
That is all.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


by Christophere Buckley
(4/5 stars)

Amid the problems of the Iraq war, the collapsing housing market, global warming, oil dependency, terrorism, and immigration is another problem that America's been on course for since 1937 when FDR created the Social Security Administration as part of his Depression relief programs. Unfortunately, with the government's characteristic short-sightedness the Social Security program essentially operates as a pyramid scheme with the people at the bottom paying for the retirees at the top. That was all fine except for the Baby Boom generation born from 1946-1964.

The "Boomers" are not only one of the most populous generations in American history, but in their short-sightedness have run up huge national debts and failed to produce enough offspring to cover their Social Security payments. Hence, conventional wisdom dictates that one day the whole pyramid scheme will collapse on a date known as "Boomsday."

Fortunately for all of us, Christopher Buckley's novel is far more interesting than those dry facts I've just presented. The story revolves around Cassandra Devine, a regular Supergirl being young, blond, and vice-president of a public relations firm without using her body to get ahead. Her father squandered her college money to start up a software company in the '90s, so Cassandra entered the Army, where she met Congressman Randy Jepperson on a fact-finding tour in Bosnia. Jepperson commandeers Cass's vehicle, driving it into a minefield that blows off his leg while leaving her relatively unharmed. Fast forward about ten years to where Cass is leading a Blogger revolution to fix the Social Security program without burdening the younger generation with high taxes. Her solution is to encourage Boomers to kill themselves at age 70, sort of a voluntary "Logan's Run." She finds an unlikely ally in now-Senator Jepperson, who champions the "Transition" program to garner attention for himself and a presidential run. But the proposal brings Cass and Jepperson into conflict with a southern minister named Gideon Payne (who might have run his mother off a cliff), the president of the United States, and Cass's now-wealthy father. It all leads to the most bizarre presidential campaign in history.

The main problem with the book is that this campaign is covered in all of sixty pages. I think we all know that especially now days these campaigns seem interminable. So it feels like a lot of build-up only to get let down by a rushed ending.

However, Buckley's story is witty and provocative. It serves as the same kind of "meta-issue" as Cass's Transition program in that it gets the reader to consider yet another of the many, many problems facing Americans in the 21st Century. You might not agree with the facts and opinions presented--especially if you're a Boomer ready to retire--but it does get you thinking about not only the problem with Social Security, but the government in general.

To me it was kind of like Tom Wolfe Lite, with a quick pace and without the kind of minute details that make Wolfe's novels twice as long. The downside of that is the characters feel more shallow than Wolfe's. As well, "Boomsday" is a novel that clearly exists only in the immediate moment of its conception with its references to blogging, Google, iPods, and "Desperate Housewives" and lacks the kind of in-depth anatomy of society that makes "Bonfire of the Vanities" relevant twenty years later. Which is to say that in five years no one will care about "Boomsday" the novel. Boomsday the real thing on the other hand might be another story.

But then most of us don't buy new books because we want to read them five years later--that's what the "classics" are for. So why not give this witty, insightful book a try? Best of all, you can look smart at cocktail parties (or whatever social gathering) by being able to intelligently discuss this important issue.

That is all.


mike said...

Liked your site.
I wondered if you would be interested in posting some of your reviews on a website, which is looking for new qulaity material - www.babyboomreview.com.
Do get in touch either through site or email -bboomreview@gmail.com
Look forward to hearing from you,

BJ Fraser said...

I bet you say that to all the guys.