Christopher Brown’s new book, Rule of Capture, is out and I read it during a weekend trip. It is one that I will be thinking about for some time. If you’ve read his previous novel, Tropic of Kansas, this near future will feel familiar: a United States struggling with refugees from midwestern drought, the results of a Gulf superstorm, and loss of a war with China (including territorial losses that include Hawaii). (It’s not a sequel so you don’t have to have read the earlier book.)
Brown follows a Houston defense lawyer who is trying to prevent his client, a journalist who captured the wrong things on video, from a brutal “denaturalization” process than a Trumpian administration has come up with to dispose of inconvenient people. And in legal thriller terms it’s fascinating story, but it’s as much about the law as it is about the car at hand; Brown gets into questions about how you find justice when some of the foundations of your country’s legal and political systems are built on some very old injustices, none of which anybody wants to confront.
It’s similar to the questions that the New York Times 1619 project on slavery raises, playing out through martial law instead of Twitter. I couldn’t put it down and almost wished the plane would circle the airport for half an hour so I could finish it before landing.
(And if you live in Houston or have spent a lot of time here, the descriptions of the city after “Superstorm Zelda,” complete with an exclusion zone that begins at the Ship Channel and stretches well along the coast, are really chilling.)