Story last updated at 5/27/2009 - 11:02 am
"The Snowflake Rebellion" by Tom Brennan. 285 pp. Arctic Tern Books. $14.95
If Gov. Sarah Palin isn't taking your Alaska political fantasies as far as you'd like, try "The Snowflake Rebellion." This first work of fiction by retired, long-time Alaska reporter Tom Brennan is a too-short story of Alaska's departure from the union.
Brennan began his Alaska journalism career as a reporter for The Anchorage Times when it was a real newspaper and was an editor of the Voice of the Times when Alaska's online version of Fox News folded in 2008. That should give you an idea of his take on how the 49th State says good-bye to the 49 others and becomes the Independent Republic of Alaska.
The book's hero is Colin Callihan, a heart-broken, alcoholic, geologist turned public relations officer of "Solstice Petroleum." Solstice is a California-based oil wildcatter that starts the book as a "minor-league" oil exploration wildcatter with a rundown office in Anchorage and ends it as an ExxonMobil-sized giant after vaguely discovering the Prudhoe Bay oil fields.
Somewhere in there the TransAlaska oil pipeline gets built, but that's only important because the only real battle during the Snowflake Rebellion is a running skirmish along the highway to the pipeline terminal in Valdez. Almost unanimously, we common-folk back the rebellion and stand the barricades with firearms, bingo games and naked flesh at the ready.
The bad guy, Millard Trebec, is an organizer for "Greenworld," an environmental lobby, who did something bad while fighting in Iraq. All "leafeaters," or "leafers" are various kinds of bad guys, either ignorant in the ways of the world or actively supportive of continued federal repression of the rights of real Alaskans.
The federal government would certainly be one of the bad guys but Brennan presents it in every element, even including the military, or least the U.S. Air Force, as bumbling and incompetent. U.S. Pres. Alice Fletcher, a Democrat with vaguely socialist tendencies, is an absolute thrall to Greenworld and the rest of the national environmental lobby that got her elected.
If you're good with that scenario, "The Snowflake Rebellion" can be a fun read. Brennan's been here long enough to have a reporter's wealth of local detail that he weaves through the book with whimsy and a poetic license as big as Alaska. Hundreds of us will probably recognize ourselves as characters in the book.
The ferry Matanuska becomes Independent Republic of Alaska's navy. Armed with a WWI cannon borrowed from out front of the Petersburg Sons of Norway Lodge, it fires a bowling ball at a cruise ship to force it to leave Alaska's sovereign waters. A group of St. George Island fishermen cut the giant driftnets of a factory processor from Russian, Japan, Korea or Seattle that, for some reason, the U.S. State Dept. is allowing to pillage the Bering Sea.
When I was done I was disappointed that Brennan hadn't produced a great honkin' 600-page novel and really put some moose meat into a great plot.
Bob Tkacz is a Juneau freelance writer.