The back cover of Noah Hawley’s Anthem informs the reader “[t]his isn’t a fairy tale.” The admonition is repeated inside the covers as well. This is either clever misdirection or false advertising, because the story has a wizard, witch, Orcs, goblins, ghosts, and trolls. Despite the presence of strong female characters and an appealing ethnic diversity that looks like America, this tale is as conventional as it gets: a ragtag group of heroes goes on a quest to save a damsel-in-distress. So don’t be deceived or misdirected. This is a fairy tale, and it was written with Hollywood in mind.
Now wait a minute, Gladiola. How can you say that? You don’t know the writer personally. You haven’t pissed with his penis. To which I reply: true, gross, and that’s not how the saying goes.
This is how I know. All the adults are evil and selfish, and the ragtag heroes are sexy teenagers. But, wait, there’s more. Unlike any teenagers you or I know, they immediately cooperate with each other (even though most of them have never met before) and (though they have no training in combat) they are able to take on a group of professionally-trained mercenaries. Sounds like Hollywood’s youth fetish to me. Plus, Mr Hawley’s background is in television and film.
All this should not suggest the story is bad. As a traditional quest narrative, it succeeds. It’s a page turner. But it is also a vision of contemporary society as seen through Hollywood’s dark, expensive sunglasses. Everyone is one dimensional. The heroes have backstories designed to pluck every heartstring three or more times. All the monsters are irredeemably evil and pulled from today’s headlines. The wizard is a pedophile modeled after Jeffrey Epstein. But he is so sexually cannibalistic, Epstein’s perversions appear quaint by comparison. One family resembles the Sacklers of Purdue Pharma infamy. But the fictional version is so greedy and selfish, the Sacklers come across as pickpockets. Donald Trump does not appear in the story, but he is constantly referred to. Except here he is not a sore loser ex-president, he is a God King – something only Trump himself would believe.
Mr. Hawley never preaches. His skills are more formidable. He screams. He rubs the reader’s face in bromides – all of them variants of WHAT IS WRONG WITH ALL THE ADULTS IN AMERICA! Many things, obviously. But perhaps not as many as Mr. Hawley would have us believe.
I am not discouraging you from reading this book if you are so inclined. It’s a fine fairy tale. However, you could simply wait for it to come out on Netflix.
Gladiola Overdrive, Chief Editor