One of these was Bacon and Egg Man by Ken Wheaton which chimes well with themes discussed here so I thought one of my rare reviews would be in order.
I haven't a clue how I came across the title and added it to my Amazon wish-list, and had forgotten about it until Mrs P's parents gifted it me on Christmas Day, but within the first few pages I was reminded why it must have piqued my interest earlier in 2013.
Set in 2050, Wes is amongst the last few of a dying breed. He writes for a print newspaper in an age where it's more of a quaint niche profession now the public receive their news digitally or via temple-installed 'implants' which direct information straight to their senses. But that's just his day job. At other times he is the "bacon and egg man"; a [drug] dealer in food and drink stuffs which have long since been banned in the Federation - a collection of lefty states which seceded from the United States to follow their own path.
Along with the eponymous bacon and eggs, the Federation has prohibited just about anything which tastes good - to protect its citizens from themselves, natch - including but not limited to steak, real butter, donuts, tobacco, twinkies, crisps, milk, Coca-Cola, Fanta and sausages, while alcohol is taxed at stratospheric rates and visits to the doctor are mandated by law with results reported to government. Not that it stops healthy abstinent people from dying early of heart disease and cancer, of course, much to the puzzlement and annoyance of those who support mandated restrictions.
The state is ruled by King Mike, an inherited title for every leader since the founder of the ideology and a less than subtle reference to the present day as described by the author in his acknowledgements.
"When the initial seeds of this book were planted back in the 1990s, it was little more than a twisted fantasy of a paranoid junk food fiend. So I guess I should thank Michael Bloomberg and the Centre for Science in the Public Interest and other such crusaders for making it seem plausible."Of course, with little more than tofu, vegetables and water sanctioned by the state, a huge black market has opened up which Wes's father was one of the first to exploit by way of regular soda and meat 'runs' over a heavily-patrolled border between the Federation and the neighbouring, but still largely free (apart from California where alcohol is taxed at 1500%), USA. He is absent from Wes's life from an early age, though, after fleeing the madness long before.
In one of a number of interesting character traits which I found very reminiscent of the current day, Wes's mother turned her outlaw husband over to the police because she couldn't stand him "poisoning kids" with his black market soda. Another personality you may grudgingly recognise is the crusading police chief who has dedicated his life to enforcing this hideous set of laws after his losing his father "to obesity". He justifies his job as "saving civilisation" where every 7up bust is counted a success by the number of lives 'saved', and views law-breaking amongst the weak-willed as "a seething pit of sugar and saturated fat". Meanwhile, although illicit supplies are widespread, the guilt laid upon Federation citizens for unhealthy eating prompts most to self-shaming gym and jogging routines to burn off any sinful excesses.
Author Wheaton crafts the back story to his dystopia via a series of letters written 25 years previously by Wes's father - long since in exile - where he is contemptuous of his former home, described as "a society of gym-going, soy-milk drinking, yoga-bending, whiny ass white people", and describes how it all stemmed from a blithe acceptance by the public of tobacco denormalisation.
If you think I'm ruining the plot by the way, think again, because the story is a raucous - often oppressive, and occasionally very smutty - caper with plenty of laughs, odd characters, and an ongoing love/hate story to boot.
All told, it is a very readable yarn which obliquely pokes fun at politicians who think passing laws eradicates behaviour; tuts very loudly at dumb citizens who allow it to happen; and presents a horrible world - which I hope no-one in their right mind would advocate - where all the salami slices to personal freedom have already happened and corruption is naturally rife.
If I have a criticism, it would be that the ending - complete with surprising twist - is a trifle rushed, but that could just be because I was enjoying reading the thing too much. Certainly nothing to prevent my recommending it. If nothing else, it don't half make you take a fat bacon sarnie less for granted afterwards.
It's available at Amazon if you're interested and have some Christmas cash still to spend.