Bleed Out: When Reason Dies is a grim reminder of what the United States could devolve into if the its citizens can't find a way to reason with one another. Written by Straughn Bowman, Bleed Out is set in the near future, following an event referred to simply as "It." "It" is the point at which the citizens of the United States finally tire of shouting and pointing and fingers at one another and begin to cluster into into warring factions. The two largest factions are the old "Union," or what's left of the U.S. Government, and the Republic of Texarkana, but large swaths of North America are no-man's land, where anarchy reins and violence is ever-present.
There are no heroic leaders in this new world. Not really. The leadership of the Union and Texarkana appear equally manipulative and egotistic, viewing the murder of thousands of citizens on the opposing side as collateral damage. Those few noble souls on either side who do have a moral compass are in a lose-lose situation, "patriots" to their causes but terrified of what their leaders are capable of. Those stuck between the warring factions are the real, if unsung, heroes, with no agendas aside from saving the lives of their loved ones.
In addition to the two largest geographic players (Union and Texarkana), there are factions like SOURCE, the "Society Organizing for Unrestricted Resource and Capital Equity," which ostensibly fights for social justice, wealth redistribution, and whatever other social cause might gain it members. There are also groups of semi-organized criminals who have taken advantage of the civil war, obtaining power over communities through violence, maintaining it through ruthlessness, and profiting from it in any number of ways, not the least of which is sex slavery.
This is a pretty dark book, as it should be. There is war, murder, torture, and rape, as you'd expect in a country torn apart by civil war. One is reminded of the recent histories of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Western Africa, where political chaos caused societal breakdowns. Could Americans really become so degenerate so quickly?
Of course. The key to tricking anyone into committing an atrocity is to dehumanize the object of the atrocity. And God knows we Americans have made great strides in dehumanizing our fellow citizens in recent years. If we can be so venomous in times of peace and relative prosperity, there is no limit to depths we will sink if the real fighting starts. Bleed Out captures that stark reality and provides food for thought, while thought and reason are still options. - S.F.