Edited by Shahid Mahmud



255pp/$16.99/September 2020

And the Last Trump Shall Sound
Cover by Scott Grimando

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

As Donald Trump's first term in office comes to an end and it is unknown whether he will be reelected or succeeded by a Joseph Biden presidency, Shahid Mahmud has put together a shared world anthology of three stories which assume not only a Trump victory, but also an eventual Mike Pence presidency. With such a near future world being explored, And the Last Trump Shall Sound would seem to have a reasonably short shelf-life, its relevance as a jeremiad based on the stories told by the authors and their potential to apply to a variety of potential situations.

Given the theme, the anthology's appeal is likely to be further limited beyond its shelf-life. Readers who are supporters of Donald Trump are likely to approach the volume with trepidation, if at all. Readers who hope for a Biden victory may well avoid the book out of a sense of Trump burnout. That acknowledged, the three authors representing in And the Last Trump Shall Sound, Harry Turtledove, James Morrow, and Cat Rambo, take a look at the current world situation and extrapolate it a decade into the future, assuming that the Trump and Pence administrations will indulge in the worst possible excesses.

Turtledove kicks off the anthology with "The Breaking of Nations." When President Pence announces that the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut have been arrested on charges of treason, the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington announce their intention to secede from the United States and form the country of Pacifica. Focusing on California Governor and later acting President of Pacifica Nicole Yoshida, Turtledove portrays a break-away region whose leaders understand the seriousness and chance of failure for their venture and builds the stakes towards the ultimate confrontation between the U.S. and Pacifica, only providing a solution once he makes it clear how precarious their position is.

"The Purloined Republic," by Morrow picks up the narrative. While Turtle offered a serious story about the secession of the West Coast from the United States, Morrow follows up with a satirical look at the situation. Satire is a powerful tool in Morrow's arsenal of auctorial weapons and he has often used it to great impact in his writing. Unfortunately, it seems to be the wrong option for "The Purloined Republic." His story of a former adult film actress from Pacifica impersonating President Pence's male spiritual advisor and guiding him to make ever increasingly erratic announcements. This is the sort of story that requires the reader to buy into the basic premise, however Morrow never really successfully sells his vision of Pence as being easily manipulated. With a tone significantly different from the stories the precede and succeed it, "The Purloined Republic" feels out of place.

Rambo brings the sequence to a conclusion with "Because It Is Bitter," in which a computer programmer in Seattle, Pacifica is taken to task when his off-the-books project, the continuation of work pioneered by his grandmother, is discovered. Even worse, once it is confiscated from him, he discovers that his promising research may have been taken by a spy from the increasingly fascistic United States and he sets out on a journey across the border to retrieve it. Rambo's Ernst is naïve and trusting in an almost endearing way. His journey through the border and then across a United States that is becoming more different and more suspicious of Pacifica affords Rambo the opportunity to explore a country that is not only different from his native Pacifica, but also very different from the United States of 2020, giving a more complete look at the conditions that caused the secession described in "The Breaking of Nations."

Conceived as a shared world narrative, in many ways the works function best on their own, mostly due to the wildly different nature of Morrow's story. Turltedove and Rambo's both bring a sense of realism to the entries, while Morrow offers up a more absurdist vision of the political situation. Even reading the anthology prior to the November election, there are aspects that feel dated with events in 2020 moving so quickly that even though the stories refer to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are other notable events which have overtaken the stories. As the world continues to progress to either a Biden administration or a second Trump term, And the Last Trump Shall Sound seems destined to become even more of a period piece despite the well-crafted stories it includes.

Harry Turtledove The Breaking of Nations
James Morrow The Purloined Republic
Cat Rambo Because It Is Bitter

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