"Anthem" | Reviewed by Pat Sainz
“Anthem” is a dystopian-themed thriller by Noah Hawley that’s set in current times in the United States. Citizens feel their personal freedoms are threatened because they have been asked to wear a mask during the pandemic. People lay dying of a disease they don’t believe exists. Each political party regards the other as the “Party of Lies.”
Climate change in the form of fires, floods, violent storms, and choking pollution have arrived on the doorsteps of all countries. Militants supporting a person referred to as the “God King” are arming themselves for battle. Congress has been attacked by one of its own.
A worldwide suicide epidemic among teens and young adults foreshadows the chaos. Social technology has helped spread the word that armageddon is at hand.
Characters in the novel include three teens who have been sent by their guardians to the Float Anxiety Abatement Center located in the Midwest. Simon, the son of the CEO of a pharmaceutical company, is being treated for trauma following his sister’s drug-induced suicide. Louise, age 14, has been abused by the richest man in the world who lures young women to one of his many mansions for his own pleasure. Paul, nicknamed “The Prophet”, convinces his new friends to help him rescue his friend who is locked in a Texan immigrant cage. The three plan their escape from the treatment center.
The author’s political leanings are clear although neither political party is portrayed favorably. Jeffery Epstien is obviously referenced as is the disgraced Sackler family of pharmaceutical notoriety. References to the “God King” describe a familiar political character.
In his novel, Hawley is clearly referencing writer Ayn Rand's 1937 novella, also title “Anthem,” written about a time in the future when the Dark Age arrived amid great technological advancement. Characters in that novel escape to establish a new society. Hawley’s ending implies a similarity.
Hawley writes candidly in an afterword of his own daughter who, at age 11, admits that she doesn’t want to think about the future or grow up in a world over which she feels she has no control. Her fears are reflected in “Anthem.”
This honest, frightening, captivating novel is garnering attention from publishers as a best literary thriller for 2022.
About the author: Hawley is an award-winning author, screenwriter and television series creator. He wrote “Fargo”for FX, worked on the series “Bones,” and is creating a new television series based on the “Alien” movies.