Allan Cameron’s intriguing novel is set in a near future world where the predictions of the US theorist Francis Fukuyama have been taken to their logical conclusions. Fukuyama declared that, with the collapse of the USSR and the hegemony of neoliberal capitalism, history had come to an end. In Cameron’s book, history has indeed been halted by decree and the citizens live in a permanent present of spurious consumer choice and endless material consumption, their bovine lives ruled by the embedding of Rational Consumer Implant Cards in their brains. A cardless underclass exists in the Fukuyama Theme Parks, vast squalid concentration camps on the outskirts of the cities. At the pinnacle of this society sit those lucky individuals who, because of their dedicated pursuit of stupendous wealth, are awarded the Plutocratic Social Gratitude Award, popularly nicknamed The Berlusconi Bonus as it effectively puts the recipient above the law.
The book takes the form of a confession by Adolphus Hibbert, a recent beneficiary of the Berlusconi Bonus, who is recruited by the sinister secret police officer Captain Younce to spy on dissident elements. Adolphus embarks on a dizzying journey among the clandestine opposition, in which he finds love, betrayal and violence; discovering terrifying truths about himself and his society.
The Berlusconi Bonus is an adroit and satisfying satire on the iniquities of present-day life, from inane consumerism to political mendacity, globalization to the War on Terror. It is both very funny and an extremely astute analysis of the evil results of a philosophy which sings the victory song of extreme free-market economics.
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