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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The story centres on Mark Bryon, a quite average graduate student who in ordinary circumstances wouldn't attract any undue attention apart from being young and attractive. However these are not "ordinary" times when every move, both public and private, is subject to scrutiny by those who have voluntarily subjected themselves to a morally-incorrupt, corrupt state: i.e. "The Moral Authority." Therefore, there is a very Orwellian tone throughout, including a `Big Brother' in the person of Samuel Pleasant, `Newspeak," and the subjugation of free thought.
There are also the usual twin pillars that form the basis of most fascist regimes, e.g. a simplistic reason for being, and a perceived enemy--both within and without. For example:
"According to Randy Gonzales, over the past thirty-five years the United States managed to save itself from moral corruption because of the newest branch of our nation's government. Since its inception by President Sarah Palin in 2014 and the constitutional amendment she and the Republican majority helped pass the following year, the moral downslide the country experienced then had not only been halted but come about at least 180 degrees. Gone were the days of media violence and pornography. All illegal drugs and associated crimes had been virtually eliminated. Murder, rape, gang violence, thefts, domestic crimes, prostitution, and even vandalism accounted for less than 10% of the overall crime rate in the entire nation. As a result, communities within the United States enjoyed a golden age." 14
And the perceive enemy:
"Constitutional amendments and which all had their origins from within the Moral Authority, freed this country from such unhealthy lifestyle choices that caused many health and societal problems, such as homosexuality, obesity, smoking, alcoholism, and even profanity. To commemorate the thirty-fifth anniversary, the Supreme High Chancellor of the Moral Authority, Samuel Pleasant, planned to address the nation the following week. Speculations already abounded that Supreme High Chancellor Pleasant intended to unveil further social legislation to better streamline this nation's morality. This came about due to recent attacks against moral law instigated by a group of domestic terrorists calling themselves the Human Rights Campaign." 15
The story then builds on this theme, and as it progresses the plot gets darker and darker in very much the same fashion as totalitarian states rule by edict and the point of a gun. However, at no time does the author push any of this over the top so that credibility is strained. Even in the latter parts of the story when the Moral Authority's "K3s" are at their cruelest (i.e KKK, the equivalent of the Nazi's SS elite guard), the reader is never caused to doubt that it could happen.
Along the way, however, the author does make some cogent observations in the context of the narrative, i.e.
"According to Mark's research, the number of Americans cited with violations of the moral code of respect had risen in many major U.S. cities. The manpower and resources alone used to enforce such petty violations could be better redirected to rehabilitating offenders who committed more egregious crimes in the nation," 33
which is a point that applies beyond this fiction to real life. I might add, as well, that the hidden cost of every law--large or small--that is made and enforced is a diminution of our civil liberties. I think this is the message to be gained from this story.
On the other hand, I think I could be tempted to accept a law that restricted unruly children in restaurants, i.e.
"The mother and father looked exhausted, and he could see why. Their two preschool aged boys were in the middle of a pretend sword fight with their chopsticks as stand in swords. Obviously, there were no moral officers here as the parents would certainly be in violation of the code of respect concerning the appropriate behavior of children in public." 35
Altogether this is an engrossing story from beginning to end, a real page-turner and superbly written. I nominate Moral Authority by Jacob Z. Flores as the most outstanding debut novel of the year. Five Stars.
The premise seemed somewhat far-fetched to me at first, but I realized that a similarly controlling government system administered by mindless auto-matons has existed on this earth within the past century and something like it could rise up again in the right set of circumstances. Some of the scenes at the end were gruesome examples of what can happen when persons in power have no accountability to humanity.
This is a solid first effort from Mr. Flores and I look forward to seeing what he has in store next.
Mark, Isaac, and Samuel are three very different young men living in America in the year 2050. For more than thirty years, The Moral Authority has held considerable sway over the nation and is in fact a fourth branch of the federal government. Conservatism run amok, The Moral Authority exerts its controlling tentacles over society by requiring citizens to live according to its edicts or risk criminalization if they don't.
Mark is bold and daring. Samuel is corrupted by power. Isaac is remorseful of his past. As the story unfolds, the reader becomes entangled in their lives. One will find true love in a barren place. One will find a redemption for himself that he isn't expecting. One is destined to fight to hold onto his way of life by any means necessary. Dominating each is the painful reality of either following the law of The Moral Authority or living in the perpetual jeopardy that personal freedom entails.
With the question of equality unsettled in the world of today, Moral Authority is a book that gives its audience a look at what the future might be like if lawmakers of the present yield to religious and conservative pressures, restricting rights instead of embracing them. Echoes of Orwell permeate the story without overshadowing it, adding to the message that it conveys, resulting in a novel that is likely larger in scope and importance than it intended to be. Moral Authority is an impressive debut for Mr. Flores.
The blurb does not do justice to this intense and engrossing story. It gives no indication of the harrowing and intense journey that is the fight against the Moral Authority.
Set in the future, the United States is ruled by the Moral Authority. Society is now bound by rules which dictate acceptable behaviour and enforce punishment on those that do not abide by them. Moral police are on patrol everywhere and the concept of freedom and free speech no longer exists. Homosexuality is illegal.
The story follows Mark, a young gay college student, who is entrapped by the Moral Authority and sent to a detainment camp. The experiences at the camp are told in graphic detail as the detainees are kept in horrific conditions and treated appallingly. This is a world of torture and death.
The obvious comparison of the world presented in this book is to the Nazi concentration camps. In reading this book be prepared for this type of environment. Much of the book shows brutality in the appalling treatment of people.
The book is intense. It paints a grim picture of a world gone too far, where behaviors are controlled to the extreme. The book provides detail of the political landscape - the President, the Moral Authority and the Human Rights Campaign. The HRC are an underground movement of people preparing to fight for what is right and give people back their freedom.
I was a little concerned that this book would just be a strong political statement but it does not come across like that. There is mystery and drama, twists and turns, and characters that invite you on their journey.
There is hope. Mark and the friends he makes refuse to give in to their captors, remaining strong in spirit. The Human Rights Campaign is full of good people fighting the cause. There is also love, a love that Mark finds during this very dark time in his life.
This book is a powerful story, an intense and compelling read. It was very difficult to put down. There is definitely no happy ending for Mark in this story. There is perhaps hope for the future but the ending is abrupt and leaves so many questions unanswered. I felt a sense of shock to reach the end, with an outcome I was not hoping for and desperate to find out the conclusion to the war, answer some questions about certain characters and find out what happens next for Caleb, Aaron, Isaac and Gabe. If there was a sequel I would be starting it right now!
Once again, just to repeat, this book does NOT have a happy ending.
This book was kindly provided by the publisher for an honest review - and I am so glad it was as I don't think I would have chosen to read this book based on the blurb alone.
Negatives: Once the chapters on the actual war begin in earnest, the technical details bog down the narrative. Acronyms and code words get very hard to follow and the character depth from the first half trickles away. The dialogue gets stilted with jargon and lines like "That's for all my friends you killed." A weak ending for a stellar beginning.
Summary: A good read. The political terror is a fascinating angle, but Flores gets bogged down in battle scenes instead of the psychological fear he creates in the beginning.