A novel by Francisco Tatad
The future has arrived. A neat line is drawn between the apostate countries and those that have kept the faith. China has become a world power, and America, although diminished, leads the Club of Twenty-One. The apostate population has aged and shrunk, replaced by machines here and there, but abortion and euthanasia have become the law and custom all over the apostate world.
In the Republic of Admana Arch, the Empressident rules without a constitution and a parliament. She speaks to the public through state media, and has blocked all other information networks, including the Internet. She is the toast of the Club of Twenty-One.
In thirty years, she has rid the country of unwanted children and seniors, closed the sexual divide between men and women, put men and machines on equal status on the shop-floor. She has outlawed marriage among the poor, except those of the same sex, and heterosexuals who are completely sterile or past childbearing.
Unauthorized pregnancies are automatically aborted, and everyone is put to sleep at seventy-five, with some notable exceptions. To ensure controlled growth of the population, a number of pre-selected eighteen year-old virgins are annually sent to fertility camps to mate in darkness for the purpose of producing state children. They are quickly segregated and sterilized thereafter. If the mating is fruitful, the woman reports back to camp during her pregnancy until she gives birth. Upon birth, the child is taken to a special camp to be raised by the state. The state child is sterilized upon reaching puberty, unless preselected for mating duties later.
In this post-New Age world, where the culture of death appears to have won, Filipino Catholic writer Francisco Tatad sets The Hidden Life of Amargo Raz, his maiden international socio-political novel on the fight between good and evil. In Admana’s capital city of Esperanza, a group of young illegals lives a hidden existence under a doctor-priest named Fr. Eleazar Pascal. They call themselves Brothers and practice a new form of non-violence.
They attack state targets without inflcting violence, just to show they could have killed or maimed, but chose not to, out of a higher principle. They are led by the young Amargo Raz and Jasper Tzu and three other young chiefs from the five different sections of the city. Raz begins his story as a state infant abandoned by a half-crazed state driver on a beach and grows up in the care of the priest. They are eventually joined by the leader of an armed band,Tonio, whom they help dodge state troops in hot pursuit.
Away from Esperanza, the Commonwealth of Islamic States has banned all terrorist activities by Moslems and called for strict adherence to the rule of law in settling grievances and disputes. At the same time, it now calls on the apostates through the United Nations to stop the killing of the unborn and the elderly, or else face an Islamic-led multinational force to compel them to do so. Russia, China and India, the Club’s breakaway members, support this call. But the expanded Security Council rejects it, and mobilization instantly begins.
The apostate countries are tired of war, and their governments’ refusal to heed the Islamic call triggers massive protests and finally revolution in the apostate capitals. The Empressident, however, offers to fight on the side of the apostates in exhange for oil, arms and food for her troops. Tonio and the chiefs sense the danger and decide to strike first. But their fight becomes merely a byplay in the global confrontation between the apostates and the Islamic-led forces. As the revolutionary tide sweeps the apostate capitals and the Islamic armies prepare to strike, the major tv networks begin a countdown on the end of the world. The only hope for peace appears to be the intervention of the Pope.
Amid such high international drama, several lives intersect in their individual search for meaning: The Empressident who will do anything to please the Club of Twenty-One and keep herself in power; Tonio, whose consuming passion is to kill the tyrant, and find Felicity, who has borne him a state child, which had been abducted from camp at birth and is now believed to be a grownup rebel; Felicity, who serves the tyrant faithfully until she gets arrested on suspicion of hiding Tonio and the missing state child; Ahimsya, who bolts out of camp to escape a sexually deranged governess and falls into the company of the Brothers; Tzu, a tough young illegal who has a solution for everything but tries to kill himself when he loses Ahimsya to Amar; Archbishop Sylvan Diaz whose search for martyrdom ends up in a Curial post at the Vatican; Amar, whose painful search for his roots throws him into a role he had not sought and ends up protecting the tyrant from his own men; Fr. Eleazar, who has seen everything from the very beginning.
Although set in the future, where the American president is a black woman, the British lady prime minister Chinese looking, and the German lady chancellor of Jewish descent, The Hidden Life of Amargo Raz could be the first novel to confront head-on the recent decision of the first African-American president of the United States to export support for abortion to the developing world. It is serious literary stuff with the excitement of a modern thriller.
This was first introduced in this blog under the working title, Sinners of the Earth. Arrangements for the publication of the novel are underway, and updates will be posted on this blog as appropriate.
Updated 12 February 2009