American Dystopia

Fiction - Dystopia
190 Pages
Reviewed on 12/02/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Shantyboat: American Dystopia is a work of fiction in the dystopia, thriller, and sociopolitical writing subgenres. It is best suited to the adult reading audience and contains some moderate scenes of sex and violence. Penned by author Carl Parsons, readers are presented with a stark vision of an America marred by totalitarian rule and the erosion of personal freedoms. Dale and Rodney, disillusioned by their circumstances, embark on building a shantyboat as a symbol of resistance in a violent and oppressive society. The narrative takes a dark turn as they resort to theft and murder, reflecting the desperation of those trapped in this dystopian reality. The story takes a transformative twist with the introduction of Delia, a character embodying wisdom and hope. She becomes a guide, showing Dale and Rodney a path that transcends violence and offers a chance at revival. The novel explores themes of survival, morality, and the quest for dignity in the face of societal decay.

Author Carl Parsons offers readers a thought-provoking experience and a narrative that prompts reflection on the fragility of societal structures and the human spirit's capacity for both despair and resilience. The characters' journey becomes a metaphor for the search for meaning and agency in the face of oppressive systems, and the moments they share with one another and those they meet are fraught with deeply engaging dialogue and poignant moments. The novel's exploration of moral choices in dire circumstances lends a lot of credence to its dystopian setting and delivers eerie parallels with today’s world. Overall, Shantyboat is a compelling work that invites readers to contemplate the consequences of unchecked power and the potential for redemption even in the bleakest of landscapes. I would highly recommend it.

Asher Syed

In Shantyboat by Carl Parsons, the discovery of a community living in makeshift shantyboats by the river leads Dale to Rodney, both men experiencing homelessness. They bond over similar strife, and the men witness a tragedy that elevates their mistrust of authorities. They have lengthy discussions about shantyboat life, societal breakdowns, and the imposition of the controlling Federation. They agree to try living a different way and secretly begin constructing their own shantyboat. However, their pursuit of independence is short-lived as their theft is discovered, which leads to a series of events, but most prominently, a serious investigation. Eventually, they meet Delia, who offers a chance for yet another type of life in support of her repair business, an idea they like in theory but that could come with more trouble than they've already got.

“Just imagine, a freedom revolt starting here in our little town, all over shantyboats.” Carl Parson paints his characters Dale and Rodney as everyday men who suffer under a government system that does not work for them in Shantyboat, but neither comes across as what you would expect to be revolutionaries. In truth, neither one is, but they certainly test the limits when they decide to operate outside of the system. I did not find them to be likable, especially after a twist that comes with a shocking fallout. Still, Parsons accomplishes what he sets out to do, which is to show how an extremist left-leaning Federation could create a dystopian America. I did think that the dialogue was overwrought, and Dale and Rodney are prone to expositions that have a “well, you see, Bob” feel to them. Still, there is no question that the premise is intriguing. Delia was definitely my favorite character, and even as she enters later in the story, her development is as good as Dale's and Rodney's. Overall, Shantyboat is a sturdy read that will absolutely appeal to lovers of conservative fiction about the average Dales and Rodneys of the world.

Pikasho Deka

Shantyboat is a dystopian drama by Carl Parsons. In the near future, the United States is no longer a democracy but a one-party totalitarian state called the Federation. With the advent of the Greater Depression, many have become homeless while vagrants now rule the streets. Two strangers, Dale Nutter and Rodney Tanner, suddenly find themselves seeking sanctuary at the Southside Community Shelter after losing their homes and families. With their mutual outlook toward the Federation regime, Dale and Rodney soon become fast friends and begin working on building a shantyboat in secrecy. While working on their boat, the two friends unwittingly commit murder and theft. However, a seemingly chance encounter with a young woman named Delia Hodge brings a new purpose to their lives. Will Dale and Rodney ever be able to escape the Federation's machinations?

Carl Parsons infuses plenty of social commentary into this engrossing dystopian novel that touches upon some real-world political issues. Shantyboat is dark and dramatic, and it aptly showcases the grievances of a section of Americans on the right side of the political aisle. The narrative is somewhat of a slow-burn, but it's compelling nevertheless. The plot plays out like a survival drama set in a futuristic dystopian society where the American economy has irrevocably collapsed, leading to mass poverty and homelessness. The two main characters, Dale and Rodney, are multifaceted and easy to relate to. Their contrasting personalities make for an absorbing dynamic, and it was one of the book's highlights for me. I also enjoyed Dale's relationship with Delia. Overall, this is an engaging drama that I will recommend to readers who love dystopian survival stories.