James Boice’s trigger-happy third novel is a graffiti-rough mural of America in the 3300s, a thousand years after a nuclear holocaust has reduced the US Capitol and the Declaration of Independence to ash, rendered Ikea side tables and Target rugs as priceless treasures, elevated Oprah Winfrey and Stephen King to the ranks of the Founding Fathers, and turned the country into a wasteland operated by executives from Visa. Amid the fallout, Northern Virginia, having finally achieved statehood, has become a “dense vast blighted urban epicenter” where teenage thugs stave off boredom by brawling in the abandoned streets of Chantilly, Centreville, Fairfax, and Falls Church. Following one such senseless melee that leaves her son comatose, a mother snubbed by politicians and unconsoled by group therapy resolves to hunt down his attacker, a delusional gang leader named Junior Alvarez, and mete out justice with a high-powered hand vacuum.
Boice—who grew up in Centreville and whose fiction has appeared in Esquire and McSweeney’s—is a stylistic ventriloquist, combining biting satire and blistering scenes of violence with a fondness for rare words (“luciferous,” “rejectamenta”) and a rugged lyricism that makes his writing hard to classify and harder still to forget.
This article appears in the July 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.