In Reed King’s wildly imaginative debut—FKA USA, available June 18th from Flatiron Books—the United States has dissolved in the wake of environmental disasters and the catastrophic policies of its final president.
Read an excerpt below, and check out a map that shows what the future holds…
It is 2085, and Truckee Wallace, a factory worker in Crunchtown 407 (formerly Little Rock, Arkansas, before the secessions), is thrust unexpectedly into the spotlight when he is tapped by the President for a sensitive political mission: to deliver a talking goat across the continent. The fate of the world depends upon it.
The problem is—Truckee’s not sure it’s worth it.
Joined on the road by an android who wants to be human and a former convict lobotomized in Texas, Truckee will navigate an environmentally depleted and lawless continent with devastating—and hilarious—parallels to our own, dodging body pickers and Elvis-worshippers and logo girls, body subbers, and VR addicts.
I became a grifter for a real simple reason: I wasn’t good at much of anything else.
—from The Grifter’s Guide to the Territories FKA USA
Most scientists gave the human race another hundred and fifty to two hundred years, tops. Almost everyone agreed the best of human history was behind us. We were, as the human spermicide Dan Ridges once said, on the wrong side of the blow job. It was hard to imagine a time when humans were just getting themselves worked up, when climax was a vision of the not-too-distant future. When there even was a future.
Now, we were in the sticky, smelly, post-climax part of human history.
But sometimes, in the morning, I could almost forget.
We joined the crowds flowing together toward the Crunch 407 Production complex—thousands of us, a single force churning through the narrow Low Hill streets. Buzz saws made a regular electric music: after all the problems with gut wedge, HR was on order to increase the regulation door size. Old holograms shed pixels on every corner, bleating about two-for-one painkillers at the Company Store. Deliverables robots whizzed sample envelopes and small packages through the narrow streets, and from every corner smiling holos reminded us of the importance of the three P’s: Punctuality, Positivity, and Productivity. The sky was the white iron-hot that meant we’d break a hundred before noon, and the wind smelled like a dust storm, shimmering with a blood-red haze: my favorite kind of weather.
Outside of R-Block, we ran into Saanvi Ferrier and Woojin. Woojin was sweating through his usual costume.
“You hear what we did to those HR fuckers at the Rose Bowl last night?” Saanvi asked as she cut her chair left and right to avoid a clutter-fuck of trash. Saanvi was captain of a fantasy football team and competed against other company divisions for Crunchbucks and more HealthPass™ days.
“Tell me you nailed them,” I said. There was nothing we hated more than Human Resources. The department fed directly to the Crunch, United, board and worked in deadly secrecy. Its agents were everywhere and nowhere, like a poisonous fart.
“More than nailed,” Saanvi said. She had a dazzling smile, so wide it dimpled all her chins together, and it pained me to think that someday she might look like her mom, completely dayglo, with orange staining even her teeth and the whites of her eyes. “Creamed. It was infinite.”
“Meow,” Woojin said. Ever since the announcement he was transspeciating, it was all he ever said. Woojin didn’t wash his fur nearly enough, and we were careful to walk a few feet in front of him.
“You’re a legend, San,” I said. “Permission to fist-bump?”
“Granted,” she said. Physical contact without verbal consent was illegal in the colony—which wasn’t a bad thing, exactly, but made it pretty awkward for a sixteen-year-old kid hoping and praying he wouldn’t always be a virgin.
Jared was scrolling through his visor feed. “Hey, did you guys see Michael and Addie this morning?” Michael and Addie was the most popular feed in the country.
“Meow,” Woojin said.
“That whole show is staged.” When Annalee shook her head, her black braids caught invisible waves of chemical static, and briefly crackled off some colors. That was Annalee for you: electric. She and I were once neighbors, back when we lived in 12-B. It was lucky I got my hooks in her when we were little. She was way out of my league now, with skin the rich brown color of trees you never saw anymore and the kind of curves you wanted to bed on. Of course, I’d been in love with her forever but in a way that didn’t hurt, like a scar I couldn’t remember getting.
“You really think they could of staged that spew?”
“Why not? It’s called special effects.”
“Uh-uh. No way.” Jared started sneezing so bad even his eyes looked like they were snotting.
“So where’d they find a real egg? Tell me that. And don’t give me some shit about the Denver Airport and some secret underground civilization.”
“It isn’t shit, and isn’t even secret. The Russian Federation and the cartel have been building cities under the surface for years…”
“Sure, just like the Mars colonists are alive and just choosing not to communicate…”
There were lots of things I hated about Crunch 407. But there were things I liked about it, too, and one of them was this: walking with Annalee and Jared and even Woojin in the sun, while Saanvi whizzed along beside us in her chair, while from their blocks thousands of crumbs poured into the streets and shouted news at one another or stopped to slug a coffee at one of the unofficial canteens hacked out of a tiny square of lobby or a defunct elevator shaft.
Already, I’d completely forgotten the backlanders, or refugees, or whatever they were, making their way to us along a highway of littered wreckage.
“Is a road still a road if it doesn’t go anywhere?” Annalee asked me once after a party in the old parking garage on the south side of Low Hill, where the serious dimeheads went to get high. She dropped her head on my shoulder—she didn’t even ask first. “Does time exist if nothing ever changes?”
Which is one of those questions that makes you think you should never have smoked embalming fluid in the first place.
Excerpted from FKA USA, copyright © 2019 by Reed King.