“Anthem” by Noah Hawley is a cautionary tale that unfolds a short time in the future, just a few years after the COVID-19 plague swept the planet. Before every game, concert, gathering; before every great event there is the national anthem. It is only fitting that in this moment in history, one that defies comprehension, starts in this manor; a nine year-old girl named “Story” with a supportive family, a busy life, and a beautiful voice, sings “The Anthem”.
Hawley says so much in so few words, “The summer our children began to kill themselves was the hottest in history.”
The narrative unfolds in separate but connected present tense stories; some are “now,” and some are “before.” In additional passages, the narrator talks directly to readers, making observations and commenting on events. This tale is filled with average people, extra ordinary people, smart people, delusional people, bad people, and people who gather in the rain, arguing over whether or not they are getting wet. All are people readers know by different names.
The familiar world is replaced by something unrecognizable. The future that people dreaded has arrived, and America is having a nervous breakdown, teetering on the edge. Information and disinformation collide in a mashup of “A Clockwork Orange,” “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”(“Blade Runner”), and “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” God is mad; California is burning; the world has gone crazy, and there are clowns.
I received a review copy of “Anthem” from Noah Hawley and Grand Central Publishing.
The narrative poses this question: “How many grown-ups does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer is, of course, “None,” because they do not want to change; they like the “light” the way it is. Plan your time wisely; once you start reading “Anthem” you will not be able to put it down. Even after you turn the last page, it will remain with you. Now, all we have to do is change.