A monstrous arm is all that survives a manned mission to Mars
The Four Fingers of Death:
by Rick Moody
Little, Brown and Company
$25.99 List Price
Rick Moody's latest novel is a riotous gloss on an already forgotten flourish of presidential theater: George W. Bush's 2004 announcement that the United States would send a manned mission to Mars in the coming decades. Bush's proposal recalled JFK's optimistic—and fulfilled—moon-landing prediction but was transparently an election-year ploy as the war in Iraq soured; it betrayed an edginess about a new, non-American century of Chinese ascent and epochal domestic decline. Slyly taking Bush at his word, Moody imagines a 2025 NASA expedition to the Red Planet and conjures a not-so-distant future that is less a forecast of the world we are soon to inhabit than a fantasia drawn from early-century jitters about national demise. "Who believed this stuff?" runs the beginning of a page-long rant of exasperated rhetorical questions. "Who believed in belief? Who believed in the political process? Who believed in the institution of the presidency? Who believed in anything but grinding it out, as the young people said, hoping only to forestall the worst that loomed? Who believed that the markets could right themselves? Who believed in the markets?"
Moody fills in the history of our next fifteen years through glancing references, sometimes emphasized with the winking phrase "as you know," unveiling an era in permanent downturn. Having ceded its global reach to the newly dominant Sino-Indian Free Trade Compact, the United States is more often than not referred to merely as a signatory to NAFTA, and not necessarily its primary member: "We were citizens of a post-industrial country that