Themes Explored: dystopia, societal collapse, familial collapse, endurance of the human spirit, freedom, independence, totalitarianism, despotism, perseverance, despair, despondence, free will, liberty, individuality, free speech, control, progressivism, environmental degradation, relationships, human connection, authoritative control
Synopsis: Just a generation ago, this place was called America. Now, after the worldwide implementation of a UN-led program called Agenda 21, it’s simply known as “the Republic.” There is no president. No Congress. No Supreme Court. No freedom. There are only the Authorities.
Citizens have two primary goals in the new Republic: to create clean energy and to create new human life. Those who cannot do either are of no use to society. This bleak and barren existence is all that eighteen-year-old Emmeline has ever known. She dutifully walks her energy board daily. Like most citizens, she keeps her head down and her eyes closed.
Until the day they come for her mother. Woken up to the harsh reality of her life and her family’s future inside the Republic, Emmeline begins to search for the truth. (Adapted from Goodreads)
Review: I judge books based upon content, not the viewpoints of the author. This is a review based solely on the quality of the narrative and not on the political leaning of Glenn Beck. Agenda 21 was either originally written by Harriet Parke and the rights were bought by Glenn Beck, or they wrote the book together. Am unsure as to this point and could not find any clarification. The book is quite short, only 295 pages and the actual narrative ends on the 277th page. Beck wrote a short afterward that takes up the rest of the pages. Narrative wise, it is an easy read that I would place at about a high school level reading level. Most of the chapters average about 5 pages long. Personally, I thought Agenda 21 was a thought provoking dystopia novel. But it suffered from a lack of strong character development and a rushed narrative.
Imagine living in a small cell located in a highly regimented set of compounds kept apart from the rest of the world by a fence. Every action is monitored and regulated, including eating and reproducing. Everyone’s occupation is identified by the color of your uniform. This is not a prison. Instead it is the home of the citizens of the New Republic. There are no more autonyms nations, only the Republic. This new order came about due to the enactment of the United Nations Agenda 21 document. All private property is forbidden and citizens are forced to pledge allegiance to the Republic and to the supremacy of the environment over humanity. The new world is told from the viewpoint of fourteen-year-old Emmeline. She lives in Compound 14 and has never been outside of the fence or communed with nature. Emmeline’s sole purpose in life is to generate energy every day by walking on an energy boars, described as a treadmill, and can only eat the nourishment cube given out three times a day. And as a female, she is expected to reproduce with an assigned partner for the good of the Republic. When she gives birth to Elsa, the Republic takes away the baby to be raised in the children education compound. However, Emmeline is not going to let the Republic take away everything that is important to her. This launches her on a path that will completely change her life.
Agenda 21 details an absolute worst case scenario. In this new future, the free world slowly gave up their rights and freedoms in return for certainty. Eventually this led to a complete erosion of the sovereignty of countries and the world’s citizens find themselves literally enslaved to a controlling government. Content wise, the narrative is rather similar to George Orwell’s 1984, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, and nearly every other dystopian novels in publication. Nearly all dystopian novels centers on an oppressed populace trying to rise above the tyranny of an all-powerful government. Based upon the point the author is trying to make either the hero/heroine is successful or they are captured and thoroughly brainwashed. This is a hallmark of the genre. In Agenda 21 the narrative suffers from a lack of complexity. There are simply not enough pages to flesh out the background details. As a result the story feels rushed and half thought out. There is a sequel, but I have not read it as of this moment. Hopefully the second book delves more deeply into the background details.
Character wise, there are three main characters. Emmeline, John, a friend who helps out when possible, and his son. The main heroine, Emmeline is eighteen for the majority of the novel. When she reached puberty at fourteen, she was paired with a much older man in order to reproduce. However, Emmeline is never fully developed. Part of the problem is that the authors spend too much time philosophizing and forgot to write a compelling character. Emmeline is rather one-dimensional with hints of a deeper perspective. However, the narrative moves too quickly to flesh out her viewpoints and struggles. The other characters are barely more than impressions. I am surprised I even remember that one of them was named John. There was a half-hearted attempt to add in a romantic element, but it definitely came across as a last minute addition. This kind of novel is only as strong as its weakest character. And the narrative struggles due to a lack of a strong main character. Without a well-developed central character to drive the action, the narrative loses focus and flounders.
Overall, this was an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. The narrative moves at a quick pace and never drags. All of the action builds up to a major climax and then the story ends abruptly. If you are looking for a self-contained story with a satisfying ending, this is not it. Presumably the sequel reveals the climax that this one hinted towards. The novel contains a lot of adult themes but is written at slightly below a high school reading level. If you enjoy dystopian novels, this is an interesting addition to the genre. But it is not this generation’s version of 1984.
Agenda 21, Threshold Editions, 2012, ISBN 9781476716695