What could be more timely than a fable about political corruption? What could be more entertaining than a novel with squirrels as the major characters?
Are We Nuts? A Modern Fable takes place in a future that we humans can only hope doesn't come about. After a climate change-induced Great Flood, humans have vanished from the earth. Squirrels have banded together and adapted to survive the periodic floods and food shortages that ravage the land. On the eastern seaboard of North America, under the guidance of visionary leaders George Squirrelton and Benjamin Franknut, they abandon their scattered nests, establish communal settlements, and form the Sciurus States. Through several generations the squirrels continue to struggle until innovator Steve l'Squirrel discovers that the strange boxes that the humans left behind in their homes can be used to communicate with distant squirrel communities.
The story takes place in Nuttington, the prosperous capital of the Sciurus States. Young Harry, a descendent of the great President Theo Roosquirrel, lives with his great-grandfather, the eldest and most respected member of the community. Harry is educated, intelligent, and ambitious, and a bit frustrated with the routine of his daily life.
After finding a berry--a rarity in the post-flood world--Harry and Great-Grandpa believe extraordinary events are destined. Sure enough, the pair begin to notice unusual and troubling things taking place in Nuttington--strange activity centered around the facility where the smart boxes are maintained; odd conversations between political and business leaders of the community. It becomes all too clear that the Tribe Council isn't acting in the best interests of the squirrels it should be serving. Secrets are being kept. But what Harry, his Great-Grandpa, and nut-checkers champion Gary Logisquir must find out is just how big, and how far-reaching are these secrets.
Are We Nuts? has a great deal to say about the dangers of corruption in even the most enlightened and democratic societies. To be sure, the squirrels of the Sciurus States have a lot to teach us. For example, in the opening chapters, a young squirrel refugee arrives in Nuttington from a flood and famine ravaged land to the southwest, and is welcomed with open arms, an example that many of our own political leaders (right up to The Donald himself) could stand to emulate.
While the parallels between the Sciurus States and our own republic are obvious, this is more than just a political allegory. Are We Nuts? is as entertaining as it is timely and topical. The characters are likable and sympathetic, the action and plot development is perfectly paced, and the reader is kept guessing to the very end. I am left hoping that there will be more dispatches from Nuttington to come in the future.