Book Description from Barnes & Noble:
“I was just a baby when we were relocated and I don’t remember much. Everybody has that black hole at the beginning of their life. That time you can’t remember. Your first step. Your first taste of table food. My real memories begin in our assigned living area in Compound 14.”
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 and accepts all male pairings assigned to her by the Authorities. Like most citizens, she keeps her head down and her eyes closed.
Until the day they come for her mother.
“You save what you think you’re going to lose.”
Woken up to the harsh reality of her life and her family’s future inside the Republic, Emmeline begins to search for the truth. Why are all citizens confined to ubiquitous concrete living spaces? Why are Compounds guarded by Gatekeepers who track all movements? Why are food, water and energy rationed so strictly? And, most important, why are babies taken from their mothers at birth? As Emmeline begins to understand the true objectives of Agenda 21 she realizes that she is up against far more than she ever thought. With the Authorities closing in, and nowhere to run, Emmeline embarks on an audacious plan to save her family and expose the Republic- but is she already too late?
Emmeline lives in a future society where all ownership is abolished. Every citizen is equal. All decisions are made by the government. Everyone receives the same amount of nourishment in the form of cubes. Everyone’s dwelling is the same. Pairings are made for you so that women may reproduce. The Authority takes the babies and raises them. Many stay in their dwelling and walk on treadmills to generate power, which they themselves do not get to use. Others are assigned their job. You are assigned clothes, which all look the same. Nature is more important than humans; you may not even pick flowers. If you are not productive, or break the rules, there are serious consequences. Every movement is recorded. Neighbors report infractions. How did this all happen?
Before I begin, I want to make it clear that Harriet Parke wrote Agenda 21, not Glenn Beck. I understand Glenn Beck’s name is rather large and prominent on the cover of the book, but he did not write it. If you look around, you’ll find lots of discussion about how this changes the book from a dystopian fiction novel written by a promising author into brainwashing from a right-winged political ideologue. Just ignore it. Don’t worry about whose name is larger on the cover or who actually wrote it. If you enjoy dystopian fiction, disregard the author, read the book and decide for yourself whether or not it is good. And don’t worry; I’ll get to some of the controversy and politics later in my review.
Agenda 21 is a very good dystopian novel and the United Nations proposal is real. The extreme progression seen in this work of fiction is… well, a work of fiction, as of now. The writing is very good. The characters are well developed. The world building is riveting. I would love to read a prequel and sequel. Finally, Agenda 21 offers numerous discussion topics.
Well, that was short. As a dystopian fiction novel, Agenda 21 follows the same equation as do all the other dystopian novels out there. So there really is not a lot to say. It is a fast and interesting read. Where Agenda 21 surpasses other contemporary dystopian novels, is in the very real United Nations proposal and the controversy over the author(s).
First, let’s take a moment and discuss what dystopian fiction is. According to Wikipedia, “Dystopia is defined as a society characterized by a focus on mass poverty, squalor, suffering, or oppression. Most authors of dystopian fiction explore at least one reason why things are that way, often as an analogy for similar issues in the real world.” I propose that the best of dystopian fiction takes us into the future with some aspect of today’s society and super exaggerates it into an oppressive force upon the population. You don’t buy it? Well, watch out, because Big Brother is watching. I’ll bet most people understand what Big Brother means, but unfortunately, I’m afraid many of today’s youth would answer that it is a reality television show. It comes from 1984 by George Orwell. Big Brother was the ever watching government of Oceania, which had its inhabitants under constant surveillance. Sort of like cameras in all banks, elevators, traffic light intersections, retail stores, police cars, some regular cars… oh wait, that’s right now.
Do you see my point? I like to read books like 1984 and think, “Oh my gosh, that could totally happen!” Does that mean it will? Probably not. It’s all good fun. Of course, just as is the case with other books, that will not stop some from decrying blatant propaganda.
Naturally, since Glenn Beck’s name appears as the author, there is a bit of discussion as to whether the book is fiction or brainwashing. In a November 19, 2012 Salon interview titled “I Got Duped by Glenn Beck,” Ms. Sarah Cypher states, “the work I did is now deeply at odds with who I am as an editor.” She edited a book she thought to be dystopian fiction and then all of a sudden, Glenn Beck’s name appeared on it and it became brainwashing, even though the book did not change- “Yes, the story is the same. So are the concepts, the characters and the writing. But the name in the byline- that changes the book’s intent. It changes everything.”
My question to you is, “Does it?”
First, let’s hear from Glenn Beck himself:
Now, let me state the obvious: this novel is fiction… Before all of the accusations begin about me promoting some kind of conspiracy theory, let me be clear: this novel plays out the idea and concepts contained in the real Agenda 21 to their extreme ends (emphasis added). p280
In all fairness, Beck continues to discuss the evils of Agenda 21 and potential outcomes short of “reciting pledges in honor of squirrels.” Do you know who else used this tactic? George Orwell in 1984. Aldous Huxley in Brave New World. Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451. Article 21 is just newer. No it is not on the same level as Orwell, Huxley or Bradbury, but the fear behind the fiction is the same. Regardless of whether or not that fear was intended as a call to arms, it still makes for a good story.
Don’t get me wrong. There are sheep all over this planet and I’m not talking about the actual sheep from whom we get wool; I’m talking about people. But let’s not kid ourselves. There are conservative and liberal sheep. Conservatives like to make villains out of Al Gore, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews while liberals like to make Hitlers out of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, and the sheep are happy to jump on the bandwagon without doing their own research, or thinking for that matter. Are there people out there who are going to read a book THAT IS CLEARLY FICTION and believe Agenda 21 is leading our country, nay world, to utter ruin? Yes. Are they the same people who believe that Area 51 hides crash-landed aliens and that 9/11 was an inside job? Probably. Just enjoy the ride (and hope there are no aliens in Area 51 or the joke will be on you).
For those of us who are reading for pure entertainment, we can ignore the big ‘Glenn Beck’ on the cover and read a book THAT IS CLEARLY FICTION. You noticed I keep capitalizing that, huh? In light of some of the criticism1, even though it seemed pretty short-lived, I thought I should continue to emphasize that it is indeed a work of fiction.
So here is my recommendation- kick back with a glass of wine, read Agenda 21 without taking anything into consideration other than you are reading a dystopian fiction novel, and enjoy the creepy.
Reviewed by Christina
1 Huffington Post published the Salon article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/20/glenn-beck-agenda-21_n_2166465.html), “Glenn Beck Has the Paranoid Conspiracy World Cowering with “Agenda 21″” (http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/glenn-beck-has-paranoid-conspiracy-world-cowering-agenda-21?page=0%2C2&paging=off), original article in Salon (http://www.salon.com/2012/11/19/i_got_duped_by_glenn_beck/)