“The Day Coyote Danced”
Borderland North Publishing, 392 pages
Dystopian novels are in vogue for obvious reasons – the coming ravages of climate change, the grotesque inequality of late-stage, neoliberal capitalism, the intrusions of the security state, the corporate stranglehold on government and so forth. Dystopian suspense novels are rarer, but their adrenalin-infused image of a broken future can be hard to shake. This happens with Peter Reynold’s recently published “The Day Coyote Danced.” Portraying a silent coup in the U.S. by an evangelical mega-church in league with a massive private security corporation, the novel is creepily plausible.
“The Day Coyote Danced” weaves together the disappearance of a female firefighter during a wildfire in California wine country, the aim of the premiere U.S. televangelist to proclaim her rapture, the skullduggery of a surveillance corporation, which has replaced the DEA and the FBI, a journey to a black site rendition center in Matamoros, Mexico and the clandestine campaigns against this tyranny by left-wing journalists and activists, protected by armed bodyguards. For the most part, these leftist fighters have migrated out of the fascist homeland. So, much of the novel takes place in Mexico.
In this fascist future, the most popular television show is “America’s Worst Traitor,” which “demonizes critics of the regime.” “One World News” (Fox on steroids) monopolizes the airwaves and blacks out anything bothersome to the despots. Publishers require “public libraries to charge a reading fee and to keep accurate records of who read what, so books no longer circulated;” mercenaries control law enforcement with access to every citizen’s “photographs, DNA profile, fingerprints, voice print, driving record, employment records, medical records, tax returns, credit rating, insurance policies, e-mails, phone bills, web page visits, retail purchases, online friends, family members, business associates, and a list of all trips” outside the country. Internal refugees, their digital identity revoked, wander the country. Without credit cards, they cannot conduct legitimate commercial transactions, since cash is illegal. A black market in yuan thrives. Volunteer spies opposed to the regime track prisoners in the American gulag, while an underground railroad moves the digitally disposed out of the country. Meanwhile the dictators develop a memory suppression drug and a fertility program to breed a master race. They also work on something sinister called predictive criminality and draw up lists of dissidents to be assassinated. One coup leader is succinctly described: “His pleasant, business-like demeanor belied his role as the Goebbels of global capitalism.”
The point here is the scarcely noticed moment when late-stage surveillance capitalism shades into outright fascism. Many think we are living that moment now. For them this novel is about what could come after. We already have what columnist Chris Hedges has called Christian fascism and obscenely wealthy global corporations interlocked with a surveillance state. For leftists the prospects are grim. Not nearly enough people are in revolt. Even if they were and believed the revolutionary slogan – a people united cannot be defeated – this book’s argument is apparently that even united, a people can be defeated, unless they are armed.
“The Day Coyote Danced” is also about religion. True religion versus televangelism. God versus Mammon. The humble versus the arrogant. The divine feminine versus the soulless adversary. I would have liked to see mention of the opposition between liberation theology and corporate evangelical fascism; how liberation theology from the 1950s to the present has advocated the gospel of the early Christian church, how its priests were murdered in 1960s Latin America by death squads and their views on class struggle denounced by the church hierarchy, how, under Pope Francis, this friction has decreased. While Reynolds’ novel does not address liberation theology’s advocacy for the wretched of the earth, that radical advocacy remains one very logical answer to the antithesis he portrays between televangelism for profit and ministering to the poor. It is also a principled rebuke to corporate fascism.