CONTRABAND is only the second novel by Charlie Vazquez and I look forward to many more from him. He and I crossed paths on Twitter and after learning we shared interests, he was gracious enough to send me an ARC of his novel and allow me to review it.
Told in the first person, it is the story of Volfango Sanzo, a Latino man who is a government employee in a near-future America. The country has turned in on itself because of civil war and revolution; government designed operating systems have rendered all other computers useless, communication satellites have been seized and media outlets restructured, all for the Revolution. Curfews are mandated and public executions of dissidents have become popular entertainment. It is in this America that Volfango works, as an employee for the Ministry of Technology. But it wasn't always so.
Volfango remembers places and people seen with his father who was a sea-loving man, so much so that he left his children and wife behind to sail again on the sea, never to return. Volfango remembers places full of color and music and people full of passion and life. Now his life is working in the Ministry,always under the eye of the Republican Guard. And Volfango also has secrets of his own, secrets that make him paranoid and fearful for his life. Then he hears rumors of people "sinking down", defecting undeground to escape. When his government mandated "gene test" is scheduled, he is so afraid of renegade genes in his DNA being discovered that he sinks down and tries to make a life underside, where everone he comes into contact with is a rebel and where he is also looked on with suspicion by them.
I read this book in one sitting. Vazquez's colorful language is absolutely poetic and he also kept Volfango's adventures underside coming at me at a fast pace. I found myself eagerly turning the pages to see what happened to Volfango next. And the other undersiders that Volfango meets on his journey are a gritty cast of characters indeed. There are ex soldiers, thieves, prostitutes, high born citizens and even circus folk and for Volfango, they are all not to be trusted.
Vazquez was inspired by Latin American revolutionary struggles and this informs his near future, Big Brother setting. There is no escaping the effects of the Revolution for Volfango. He is never at peace and lives his life by doubting everything. He becomes too bruised by the conflict raging topside and even within himself to express his emotions to those most close to him.
CONTRABAND is a fast paced, riveting tale that I enjoyed very much. I am now going to seek out Vazquez's first novel as well. Do yourself a favor get a copy of CONTRABAND today. It is available on Amazon and at Rebel Satori Press as well. You won't be disappointed.