When Australian Prime Minister Adrian Fitzwilliams decides to throw a snap election he feels secure that another Liberal victory is a done deal. His Cabinet is functional if mediocre, the Greens are in receivership after losing a billion dollar defamation case, and the Labor opposition party has emerged from the honeymoon of a new leadership to serve up the same old wishy-washy policies and platitudes that has served them so inadequately in the past decade. Fitzwilliams has been returned as PM three times already. All his Party has to do is rigidly follow the centrally choreographed campaign and he’ll easily romp home for a fourth term.
Welcome to 2028. But if the political scene in the next decade seems as predictable as the current one, author Ken Saunders’ hilarious novel 2028 sees us living in a world of Autodrive cars and parking meters that double as pokie machines; a top-rating, though dead, TV shock jock; a reality show set on an international space station and the Communist Part of China thriving in its new format as the multinational corporation Chinapink.
And before Fitzwilliams even has a chance to inform an unsuspecting Australian public of the forthcoming election, his campaign is hi-jacked by the Luddites a shadowy party in which all members (male and female) are named Ned Ludd. Whilst initially dismissed as a one-trick wonder (a nude campaign launch will do that) and despite their no-tech approach to electioneering, the Luddites popularity grows. With innovative tactics (particularly effective was the one that made polling irrelevant) they stay disturbingly one step ahead of the established parties all without uttering one rude or negative statement about their opponents.
Something’s definitely afoot, but not even the infiltration of No Expectations, the Charles Dickens themed cafe where the Luddites congregate, by an ASIO agent, comes up with any useful information for an increasingly bewildered Prime Minister..
Although Ken Saunders’ novel is set 10 years in the future, it has a strikingly contemporaneous political and social narrative (albeit hilariously over the top), one that has resulted in today’s voters of every hue, increasingly disaffected with politics and politicians. The message, like the humour, isn’t particularly subtle, but is none the less successful for that: politicians are there to represent the public that elected them not themselves; MPs on all “sides” should produce policies not propaganda and platitudes, and people generally, should be nice to each other.
Good humorous writing is hard to achieve, which is why there is so little of it. Too often reviews talk of “laugh out loud” funny where actually they mean a book that raises an occasional chuckle. 2028 is the real thing. Usually if you laugh audibly while reading on a train, strangers change seats or studiously avoid catching your eye. In one half-hour journey I was twice asked by fellow passengers what book was causing such laughter, even if their eyes did roll when I mentioned the words Australian politics.
2028 by Ken Saunders is published by Allen & Unwin.