'Boomsday': satire with the sting of reality
Tom Wolfe recently told a group of journalists that politics has become so odd that fiction faces a real challenge. How can an author make stuff up when the news is almost always a step ahead?
This question looms above Christopher Buckley's Boomsday like an anvil yo-yo, dropping mercilessly (and regularly) over the reader's head. In the fictional "Boomsday," (which follows a critically acclaimed film version of Buckley's "Thank You for Smoking,") the author orchestrates an elaborate war between the ends of the voting-age spectrum: the baby boomers and the U30s (under 30s), aka Generation Whatever.
Set in a not-so-distant future, "Boomsday" is the story of Cassandra Devine, a 29-year-old blogger who commands America's youth through her digital rants. Incensed by the self-serving lifestyle of the boomer generation, who, in her view do little more than drain Social Security and pass on debt, Cassandra urges her peers to march on retirement communities.
If that weren't enough, her plan to save Social Security by offering incentives for seniors to kill themselves finds a supporter in Congress, an upper-crust Massachusetts senator, who, while tripping on acid in his 20s, decided he would one day become president.
It's outrageous and it's offensive; satire in a take-no-prisoners, Swiftian style, and that's exactly what Buckley wants. To him, modern politics is a farce in which the follies portrayed in "Boomsday" are all too possible.
And that's not all: the president has the foulest mouth, immigrants compete for a green card in a race across the border, Wal-Mart opens a store on the National Mall, and the vice president shoots a lawyer. (Wait, didn't that last one actually happen?)
Whatever fictional future the book is set in, there are plenty of references to wars, a growing deficit, and a fascination with understanding the young generation. In Buckley's book, most politicians are fictional, while most media types are real-life establishment figures of our time.