Charleston, W.V.: Nine-Banded Books, 2011
The Node is Tito Perdue’s debut in speculative science fiction. It is a tour de force of postmodern storytelling, examining the extremes of white fragility and resilience, apathy and defiance through the travels of an unnamed narrator: “Our boy.” Unlike anything you can find in a mainstream book store, the blurb and book share the virtue of being uncanny in their assessment of America’s future — “Crime has been normalized, sex has been mechanized, and ethnic enclaves vie for the last remnants of power.”
The Node takes place in a United States where the intended abolition of the historic America has proceeded apace and the white ethny who bravely settled the landmass cling to the margins as a resented and abused minority. The post-apocalyptic landscape offers a smorgasbord of satires, each one a barbed deconstruction of civilizational haplessness and endemic collapse. The more radical tenets of the Left are enforced to such a degree that ‘xenophobes’ get the rope, and the country has become so diverse and ethnically cartelized that booby traps are everyday pieces of street furniture.
Perdue relays our narrators’ journey from being a “young fellow” (“I’m 44.”[p. 38]) to overseeing the final triumph of the Nodists (a process of simply outlasting the energies of the Revolution, which are exhausted when the country is finally ruined). The career women he encounters take the pathological narcissism of the liberal Left to its logical conclusion, measuring their success in how despised they are by the hoi polloi and ‘patriarchy’. Federal agents patrol the American heartland for ‘Cauks’ (Caucasians). State brutality has escalated to maintain the anarcho-tyranny: “His mind drifted back to a saying of the Secretary of Inspection and Control, namely that torture is not torture if in the mind of the torturer it’s not” (p. 74). Our pilgrim stands “athwart the apocalyptic tide,” a tsunami of miserable trash that threatens to sweep the continent clean of life should Whites not find the grit to withstand it (aquariums are supplied with paraffin or other hydrocarbons as a water substitute, and the Midwest is home to volcano ranges). Tito has heaven’s laughter for the self-sabotaging individual idiocy of the White Race — “Gila Monsters?” “Well shoot yeah I believe it! Stands to reason” (p. 19) — 0 yet indefinite compassion for the seemingly small White American people who, disprivileged by economism, begin staking their lives on re-settling the continent.
The striking thing about this book is not its fairly pedestrian premise — the various flavors of post-apocalyptica are well-sampled, and that this one has arrived through political stupidity is not unique — but the authentic tones of rural conversation and the remoteness of the narration. Where the narrators of other science fiction novels anchor themselves (quite unconsciously) in the present by using similes, metaphors and common knowledge with which the reader will be quite familiar, The Node is written from its present setting (our future) for a reader in an even further future, leaving the reader befuddled, entertained, perplexed, or intrigued (or all four) as the vast sums of everyday knowledge assumed by the Nodists are unknown from us. When baffling behaviors and occurrences are explained it is quite offhandedly. The text is a joy to read, full of inexplicable goings-on; elements mentioned early are often unsubstantiated until later, like the Nodist recruited from a “Gilian monastery.” The worship of Gila Monsters (“You just don’t get it do you? They’re good.”) is merely referred to as “the most successful of the new religions” (p. 191).
No reason is given for the Nodists living in a perpetual darkness due to the real or imagined harmful effects of sunlight until halfway through the book, when they spot a fellow with “his hand held aloft to ward away the ultragamma rays.” Perdue draws upon a vast vocabulary without being pretentious or overloading the reader, and all of it paints a fuller picture of their experiences. One passage (the itinerary of a supply cache) captures the texture of the novel:
. . . our man was mostly interested in practical matters, footwear and the like, anti-spyware tablets, a pint of mint-flavored reflux solution, and a set of brass knuckles for the left hand. Of fluids, he selected a quart of belladonna, peach brandy, escrubilator grease, a small tube of sniffing glue, luminal and lanolin, a half-gallon of pink ouzo from the Pelopennese, aqua regia, muriatic acid, rosewater, Astyptodyne, two pounds of dehydrogenated gluten, a tube of valerian and capsule of spackling paste. (p. 117)
The Nodist’s fragile existences are enlivened by this loving attention to detail and playfulness. “The office had a book collection, a globe of the world (hopelessly misshapen), and a deteriorated carpet wherein the weavers had replicated in a series of panels that good old story of Pyramus and Thisbe . . . a two-inch giraffe loitered at one end of a paper-thin mantelpiece. […] Coming nearer, he could also make out a numerous herd of much smaller girafflings trailing their parent” (p. 44). Punctuation is used to good effect, highlighting comically incomprehensible everyday things:
He met the gaze of a woman coming toward him, an unworried type holding a leash and dog (the dog was missing) and dressed in a mask of solidified suntan lotion that gave off a stink.” (p. 106)
In the end it was Hingis who lifted the lid and the other man who ventured to grasp the exhausted brick in his thorium glove and toss it a short distance away where they could observe energy changing into time even as they gazed upon it. It was the woman (the males wanted no more to do with it), who then snatched it up in her right hand and flushed it away through the hole in the floor called, self-explanatorily, “the hole” (in the floor). (p. 147)
Rain leaves the pavements pock-marked with acid burns, and society is lousy with escrubilators, whatsits too elusive to be pinned down with mere words that provide all manner of handy functions. The environment has undergone a series of catastrophes that make agriculture a largely unknown — “Do they still have those level places?” “Fields, you mean?” (p. 121). The trend towards using self-mutilation and parading a new identity has taken on a genetic dimension — the Caucasian gene pool is perhaps irreparably contaminated a result of passing fads. Our boy is an unlucky inheritor of a “bright red tongue that was forever darting in and out” (p. 1) and a later Nodist has been mixed up by his embryologist by “some 150 butterfly genes” (p. 152).
But for all the threats arrayed against them, the one most likely to bring about their eventual doom is their own passivity and absorption of prevailing anti-white dogma. Hard up against a grinding poverty intended to squeeze them out of existence, they are still attracted to the seeming glamour of the upper-middle class who engendered the liberal project — selling out one’s own permits a full ration reward, and the butterfly man proudly describes how he was “regendering the Iliad — a famous old book — for the rising generation . . .” . . . the Nodists are “Fascinated by this sort of talk” (p. 155).
Even when fully aware they will face capital punishment for “ethnocentric tendencies” and that there are dysgenic programs in place to retard (“equalize”) them, the Nodists suffer from a reflexive self-loathing and anti-white racism: “Alabama? All those racists?” Ingrained into them is a despondency that leaves them vulnerable to resentment. When confronted with the black-and-white films of the past, their response is embarrassment — for themselves, and that such outlandish people with “exaggerated dignity” existed: “God. Who did they think they were after all?” (p. 58).
Even in the fledging Node (“We’re about five percent finished with the wall,” our boy reported, his voice choked with pride”[p. 208]) the masses succumb to apathy and television, harassed by perfume adverts. It is only when the founder and the whip hand are brought into alignment that traction is gained towards building anew — the peasants are warded by the cunning slob Hingis on behalf of our boy, the leader anointed by the Chief Nodist, Larry. “Slowly he brought them back. He was good, the scapegrace, with guns and threats and our man began now to see just how indispensable he might turn out to be” (p. 201). But none are so indispensable the prime mover, the metapolitical visionary (our boy being merely an extension of his reach, yet indispensable himself in this capacity), as without his depth of knowledge and motive to “Turn the world around,” whites would drift off into their individual existences and be lost forever. Even our bloke was isolating himself before being ousted from his land by a scarcity of propane and an untenable number of trespassers.
Unfortunately for the Nodists, they are (to a man) products of the society they despise and accordingly flawed. Over the course of the novel, our man’s affections are transferred from the luscious Penelope, with whom he initially hopes to produce “good children, pretty good, who might prove to be assets to nodes of the future” (p. 110) to Lisa, the town bicycle. In a move that will leave an inattentive reader (or one who hasn’t read this spoileriffic review) flabbergasted, Lisa later proves to be more than metaphorically mechanical — she falls face flat because her gyroscopes have failed, and is merely some type of android, sex doll or skinjob. Larry himself is not fully immune from being inculcated with society’s chief values, despite his reminiscences about a bygone age when boys were more interested in baseball than rectal intercourse, and his proclamation that “our purpose is to achieve a spiritual condition” (p. 86). Perdue gifts Larry with an absurd satire of Martin Luther King: “I have a dream. A dream that someday little white boys will lie down with silicone models and all God’s children will gather on the left-hand side of the Bell Curve. I have a dream. I dream a bear is chasing me and my feet don’t work” (p. 238).
Hingis, the self-interested herder, is indulged by our man with a few dollars to utilize a vending machine for an orgasm, a droll and cynical piece of whimsy to rival the Suicide Booth of Futurama. (In a society done in by prosperity, where material abundance and ‘consoomer’ atomization has all but erased meaningful struggle and replaced it with the pursuit of sensation, the Suicide Booth offers two options — a quick and painless vaporization, or an excruciatingly painful slicing and stabbing. One would be perversely tempted by the second option as a truly hopeless person, for a brief life with indescribable pain is preferable to a protracted one with barely an emotional blip). Our boy, too, feels the tug of ennui in early desperate times, but when it comes to “gorgeous death, he was ready for it not quite yet” (p. 54).
Life is fleeting, and the opportunity to “establish a stronghold, a redoubt, a last ditch . . . a Node” is fading fast, and all efforts are directed to this vital end. Everything hangs in the balance as the Cauks are perilously close to extinction; their chances of survival are measured by the square miles, cows and domestic wrens in their possession (p. 204). Every individual counts, and history takes the names of those who give themselves to the cause, like the woman electrocuted trying to “snip the fence that separated them from their neighbor’s cattle.” (p. 217). Often made to feel small when he dared challenge the outlandish beliefs of his fellow Cauks, our man’s journey appears almost thankless. Even in the final hour he has to stand up and put himself forward to prevent himself being passed over for promotion. Yet later comes the earned blessings of authority, and recognition from those who have depended on him: “Look about you, all these acres. I ask you, who could have ever expected our boy to achieve so much, what?” (p. 220).
The Node is an undeniably bleak book, merciless in its send-ups of white people’s flaws and foibles. It is a caution to not allow things to slide so far as to require a Larry, Barry, or Harry to get us out of it. Yet it shows how hardship draws out the best in our race as an antidote to pessimism. The book is a paean to tenacity, a love letter to Southern fortitude and an immaculate piece of writing, and the more copies find their way into the hands of potential Nodists, the better.