Boomsday Review
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In his latest novel—the first since his Thank You for Smoking was made into a feature film (see our review of the movie)—satirist Christopher Buckley takes on Social Security. The first of the Baby Boomers are beginning to retire, leaving the younger generation to pick up the tab. But the members of the “Whatever Generation” barely even know what’s happening—until Cassandra Devine opens their eyes.

By day, Cass works in PR, providing media training for corrupt businessmen, glossing over scandals, and helping to improve the images of everyone from mink ranchers to the government of North Korea. By night, she blogs. Fed up with the Social Security disaster—and the Boomers’ unwillingness to do anything about it—one night, Cass calls her generation to action. As a result, bands of angry young people storm golf courses around the country—and Cass lands in jail for a few days for inciting nationwide riots. But that’s just the beginning. Once she’s out, she proposes a solution—one that gives tax breaks to Boomers who are willing to commit suicide (Cass calls it “Voluntary Transitioning”) by age seventy. Though it’s really just a meta-issue, meant to get people talking about an alternate solution, the whole Transitioning issue is picked up by Senator Randolph K. Jepperson of Massachusetts, who’s looking to pick up the under-30 vote in the next presidential election. Soon, everyone’s joining in the battle—like the president, an outspoken religious leader who may have killed his own mother, and Cassandra’s long-lost father, a billionaire who, twelve years ago, used her college tuition to fund his first start-up and who’s now eyeing a government position.

Filled with the quick, biting wit and laugh-out-loud irony that made me fall in love with the screen adaptation of Thank You for Smoking, Boomsday will make you think while it’s making you laugh. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy story to get into—mostly because it falls short in characterization. Cass isn’t exactly a likeable character. She’s a workaholic who’s mostly driven by anger and resentment. Not surprisingly, she has no friends, other than her boss and Senator Jepperson (with whom she has an awkward and highly-rumored past)—both of whom are nearly twenty years her senior.

The book’s most intriguing and potentially likeable character is Cassandra’s boss, Terry. He’s a PR guy who doesn’t like his clients nearly as much as he likes their money—just like his mentor, Nick Naylor. Unfortunately, Terry is a minor character—though he’s much more interesting than some of the major ones. You’d think, since the book takes place in Washington, D.C., where the population consists of a large number of backstabbing opportunists, that the characters would be fascinating—but the characters with the most potential just aren’t developed enough.

Fans of political satire will want to pick up a copy of Buckley’s latest. You’ll appreciate his wit—and his brilliant way with words. More mainstream readers, however, will find it difficult to get beyond the thin characterization and the occasionally meandering storylines to truly enjoy the story.

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