Utopia Café

Fiction - Social Issues
303 Pages
Reviewed on 11/27/2021
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

David Hejna is a retired lawyer. During his last ten years of legal practice, David served as the General Counsel, Vice President and Corporate Secretary for a high growth technology company. His 30+ year legal career included positions with a prominent law firm and a large corporate law department. He has a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School and bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of Michigan.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite

Utopia Café by David Hejna is a satirical novel that is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining, a story set in a world where social justice and equality are non-existent. The political setting is vividly captured and it reflects the loss of power by the conservatives through a “soft coup.” The country is poor and subjected to merciless totalitarianism, where the elite live well and the masses suffer. While people want free speech and equal opportunities, a crackdown by the political police is ruthless. No one wants to be sent to the Alaskan Reserve—a kind of gulag for enemies of the state. But an underground resistance is budding and Izzy, a college senior, belongs to this world of fighters. When she meets Tom, an up-and-coming star of the one party, she is determined to challenge his political views and perhaps pull him into the underground movement. It turns out that he is already privately cynical like most people at that time, but he needs to be careful about revealing his cynicism to Izzy because he could lose his social credits and standing in the party.

David Hejna paints a bleak political future for a country that once flourished as the beacon of democracy, demonstrating what happens when politics stops being representative and becomes party-focused. This is satirical fiction inspired by contemporary politics and it comes across as a powerful warning of what might become of the US should party politics ignore the interests of the people. Utopia Café is brimming with social and political commentaries that are meaty and robust, offering food for thought for the reader while exploring how society can easily plunge into cynicism. The characters are elaborately written and real; the setting itself morphs into a major character in the story, affecting readers in many ways. It is written in beautiful, highly descriptive prose and features scenes that are focused and vividly written; the political and historical hints are compelling and manifold. It is a satirical tale that will resonate powerfully in the minds of contemporary readers.

Vincent Dublado

You can guess that David Hejna is not really writing about 2033 without context, but taking into account current political and cultural developments when he published his book in 2021, much like George Orwell with his book 1984 which he published in 1949. In Utopia Café, Hejna takes us to the bleak year of 2033. The pervading political system is shaped by the events of 2021 to 2025, which transformed the country into a totalitarian socialist one-party system with an emphasis on collective welfare and equal outcomes across race groups. Conservatives have lost power. Some of them fled to other countries while others went underground. At the backdrop of this system is a young man named Tom, a rising member of the Equality Party being groomed for a job at the Bureau of Truth. He is loyal to the Party, even if his parents were rounded up for transport to the Alaskan Reserve—the American Gulag for those who express their traitorous views. Everything changes when he meets Izzy, who looks like Hedy Lamar; a researcher, editor, and courier for the underground. Izzy slowly shows him the grave errors of the Party and invites him to join their cause.

Another thing that you can guess is that David Hejna is worried about the strong, exerting influence that contemporary liberals wield in the present socio-political climate. Clearly, Utopia Café is a satirical commentary on such a firm hold that could turn the country into a totalitarian state with misdirected intentions. It is prophetic but cautious, as he illustrates that even future liberals are becoming cynical about the system they believed would work. Hejna’s narrative does a good job of articulating how the present arrived at a dystopian 2033. What is even more remarkable about this social commentary is how completely satisfyingly it explores a blooming romantic relationship in a time of unrest. This cautionary tale brims with a non-intimidating intelligence that makes Hejna quite an interesting storyteller.

Risah Salazar

It's the year 2033 and America is no longer divided into two major political parties. After the Soft Coup that happened from 2021 to 2025, the nation has since been under a totalitarian socialist regime. At this time, there is no other party but the Equality Party, where everyone is treated equally regardless of social class and race. Or are they, really? People who have been questioning and rebelling against the Party's ways have secretly formed The Underground. Tom, a 22-year-old member of The Party, has been rising through the ranks. He is almost finished with university and a job is already waiting for him at the Bureau of Truth. On a confidential arrangement, he has also become Buddy Lemmon's assistant. Lemmon is none other than the Chairman of The Party's Central Committee. Izzy, an interesting woman with an even more interesting background, catches Tom's attention and their first meeting is soon followed by more. While Tom is not exactly as devoted to The Party as he seems, how will he react when he finds out that Izzy has been planning to recruit him to The Underground?

David Hejna's Utopia Café is a carefully-paced expository and persuasive satire. Readers will find themselves completely immersed in the book because of great story-building and characterization. With a seamless flow and delivery, it never gets boring even when the story is heavy on politics and history. Since details are given in just the right amount at the right timing, the book is able to remain entertaining even with hard-to-face truths. Aside from being a satire, Utopia Café is also a romance. Tom and Izzy's relationship is not forced and it grows naturally from friendship and understanding. It fits well in the context and it doesn't look like it's only written for the sake of having a love story in the middle of a chaotic society. Satires are supposed to poke fun at controversial topics, but Hejna's writing will make readers realize that there is nothing really funny in a country full of injustice, corruption, and suffering. Utopia Café is a good and thoughtful read.