Victor Acquista Shares His Thoughts about the Novel, ‘A Fastball for Freedom’

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Guest Writer: Victor Acquista

Victor Acquista reviews, author, play-write baseball aficionado and New York native, Gary Morgenstein latest novel, A Fastball for Freedom.

Victor Acquista reviews, author, play-write baseball aficionado and New York native, Gary Morgenstein latest novel, A Fastball for Freedom.

In his book, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, acclaimed author Orson Scott Card suggests there are four basic story structures for these types of speculative fiction. One such structure he dissects is the “Event Story.” Something is wrong, out of whack or out of order in the world portrayed in this story structure. As Orson Scott Card states: “The story begins, not at the point where the world becomes disordered, but rather at the point where the character whose actions are most crucial to establishing the new order becomes involved in the struggle.” [Card, O.S. (1990). How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. Writer’s Digest Books. p.81]

This is precisely the kind of world and story author Gary Morgenstein continues to unspool in A Fastball for Freedom, book two in the Dark Depths Series, cataloguing a fictionalized dystopian future where America is in decline following loss to the Islamic Empire in World War III. The protagonist, Puppy Nedick, is a baseball historian covering the final season of the great American pastime that has been stigmatized by events associated with treachery that contributed to America’s defeat. He is an unlikely hero, an everyman just trying to get by in a chaotic world where religion and politics have been outlawed, and America is ruled by “The Family.” The first novel in this series, A Mound Over Hell, ended with Grandma, the head of The Family, being murdered by a First Cousin and Puppy being framed for the assassination. He and his ex-wife narrowly escape to the Muslim Caliphate of England. The continuing story picks up from that point. Needless to say, I have eagerly awaited this second book.

The thirteenth century English tale, King Horn, recounts the adventures of the son of a Middle English king. His father suffered defeat and conquest by Saracens that now occupy his ancestral lands. The son eventually returns and expels the foreign invaders. This has a similar “Event Story” structure and one can draw parallels to the Caliphate of England occupied by Islamic invaders described in Morgenstein’s novel. Yet, King Horn at its heart is an epic romance; while Puppy and his ex-wife Annette do get romantically reacquainted, the similarity stops there. Or does it? And what role does baseball and love of baseball play in the restoration of order in a world gone crazy?

A Mound Over Hell described the absolute madness in an America characterized by extreme progressive ideologies, such as robots with rights, coexisting with extreme conservative values, such as marriage and family as paramount to everything else. A Fastball for Freedom portrays life across the pond in Muslim-occupied Europe. Life here is every bit as dystopian. Society is organized as a theocracy ruling over Crusaders–non-Muslim infidels and non-believers. They are primarily Christian and are very much second-class citizens. Islamic men also enjoy greater social class status than women. In reading the author’s account of Europe under occupation, I could not help but twinge slightly at the clear parallels to present day America where Muslims and immigrants and women are often relegated to second-class status. I’m confident this is Morgenstein’s intent. He wants us to feel uncomfortable.

The book abounds with social commentary and messaging. Society is segregated into believers and non-believers. The world is divided into the Islamic Empire, America, and the rest. Always there is the threat of nuclear annihilation. And there are factions within factions–those in America calling for a new war and those who seek peace; there are Muslims who want to end all hostilities opposed to those who want to finish the job they started and rid the world of the Godless Americans for good. Puppy is caught in between all these factions who each want to use and exploit him to meet their own agendas.

Always, it is the rich and powerful lording over and manipulating the common man through ceaseless adverts and propaganda. The author is merciless in portraying this to hyperbolic exaggerations that compares to satire and parody in The Onion or the old-style Mad Magazine. Police officers feast on Cream-Listic Donuts. TV shows are sponsored by trivial business enterprises such as Dan’s Cycles, Basil Hayden’s Funeral Homes, Petite Cupcakes, and the like. The governments on both sides of the Atlantic are plagued by endless rules, laws, and tortuous bureaucracy. The ruling structures are extreme secularism in America, where God has been outlawed, versus a hyper-religious empire in Europe, where Allah is invoked for every aspect of life. Though they represent opposite extremes, both rely on police, the military, and citizens reporting one another. I had a hard time keeping track of the BlackTops, Blue Shirts, Brown Hats, Shurtas, Holy Warriors, and so on; but how else to maintain order other than through oppressive policing and military-backed authoritarianism?

Throughout the novel we are treated to generous philosophical pearls such as stated by Annette, “Then how come everyone always wants peace and everyone keeps getting killed.” Readers should note that Grandma was assassinated precisely because she had started a process of peace and reconciliation. Sadly, the forces of hatred, violence, intolerance, fear mongering, and abuse of power are on full display throughout the novel. The social commentary about our world today is apparent. As another character opines, “What if there was no truth anymore and there would be no difference. Politicians do no good except for themselves…” Morgenstein offers blistering commentary without sermonizing or getting preachy. He is a populist in the good sense of the word. He empathizes with the fate of the commoner regardless of their class, race, sexual preference, or religion. Morgenstein’s dystopian world has problems, but those same problems are here today. Is he a prophet calling out in the wilderness about where our current strife is headed?

The exaggerated stereotypes the author uses as a device to point out the madness in our present-day world clobber the reader with the brute force of a baseball bat to the skull. Yes, they are cartoonish in their extent, but the message conveyed is clear–the world is messed up. In the mayhem and madness, one searches for something to anchor to, a foundation or familiar landmark from which to orient and gain purchase. That anchor is baseball, delivered by the unassuming and very ordinary hero, Puppy Nedick, a common man. No spoilers here, but the baseball theme, and all it represents is the secret to setting things right. A Fastball for Freedom is a Field of Dreams in a nightmare landscape of darkness.

Victor Acquista has become an international author and speaker following his careers as a primary-care physician and medical executive. He is known for “Writing to Raise Consciousness.” His multi-genre works include novels, short stories, fiction and nonfiction and often incorporate social messaging to engage readers in thought-provoking themes. He is the creator and host of a podcast series, Podfobler Productions.

He is a member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, the Florida Writers Association, Writers Co-op, and is a Knight of the Sci-Fi Roundtable. When not pondering the big questions in life and what’s for dinner, he enjoys gardening and cooking. He lives with his wife in Florida. Learn more


Follow Gary Morgenstein on Twitter @writergary and purchase the first book in the series A Mound Over Hell along with the sequel, A Fastball for Freedom from BHC Press.

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