by Nick Mamatas
In near-future, slightly dystopic Long Island there are hundreds, thousands of discarded smoke detectors at the dump, ripe for the scavenging. Why would anyone want to scavenge elements from smoke detectors from a dump? To manufacture a nuclear weapon in their basement, of course. That is what Daniel Weinberg does, and he enlists his mind-reading son Herbert to help him.
They are successful, so they package their weapon in a garden gnome, plant it on the front lawn, and declare themselves an independent nation. It’s an open question who is more dangerous: the government, corporate forces, or the sort of nutter Daniel has become. It’s also not clear who is actually the better parent to Herbert: the father who probably irradiated him, or the mother pimping the story to the media?
Mamatas clearly isn’t too keen on security theater, preemptive warfare, unchecked corporate power, or the mainstream media. (I suspect he has a love/hate relationship with Long Island.) He manages to be funny instead of preachy about it, and that is what makes the fable of Herbert’s growing up entertaining. It’s a quick read, the sort of book you’d read on a plane ride, or an afternoon at the park, or just curled up on the couch. Everything familiar might seem a little bit creepy for a while after you put the book down, and that is part of its charm.