Clarke County, Space by Allen Steele
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was one of the most absolutely delightful books I’ve ever read! I love Allen Steele! What a story!
The story begins with a older, veteran writer being approached by a stranger who wants to tell him the “real” story of Clarke County, a constructed space colony which I think is near the moon. In this story, you meet the Church of Elvis and its con man mastermind, a rich girlfriend of a mobster on the run with cash and important computer disks that he’ll kill to recapture, the hit man sent after her, the Indian police chief of Clarke County, and many other interesting characters.
We first meet John Bighorn taking peyote so he can have interpretive dreams. When he wakes, he finds the wife of one of the local politicians who wants to bed him. He declines. We’re then transported to the transport bringing the girlfriend in first class, and the assassin and the church in third class, where they’re frozen “zombies” for the trip. Upon waking, the assassin talks with the Living Elvis and it’s pretty funny. The FBI is involved, if only to ask Bighorn to keep an eye out for and on the girl, which he does. He finds “the golem,” (the assassin) and warns him away, thus gaining his eternal enmity. Meanwhile, someone has distributed via the electronic bulletin boards a call for Clarke County to declare its independence from Earth and become a self sustaining nation, which elicits a great deal of controversy. In fact, this mysterious person can apparently appear in electronic form just about anywhere and while he plays some pranks at times, he’s quite useful to Bighorn throughout the book.
The Church of Elvis is onsite for a televised revival, to grab more members and fill the coffers. The girlfriend, Macy, hides out as a cultist with these people, only to be spotted on TV by the golem, who goes after her. She’s abducted by the police first to put her under protection, but there are only seven policemen for the entire colony and they don’t even have lethal firearms, just tasers. Suffice it to say there’s a great shoot out scene and a showdown between the golem and Bighorn, but the book also brings into play a nuclear warhead that’s been hanging in space for awhile and which an Elvis hacker has broken into to and sent toward Clarke County. Zounds!
The story ends in a satisfying manner and we’re taken back full circle to the beginning of the novel, where we find the two men talking. And we discover the topic of time travel. Interesting, and unexpected. If I could give this book 10 stars, I would. I just thoroughly enjoyed it and I strongly recommend it.