callisto-pb-cBy Torsten Krol
Harper Perennial, $14.95, 464 pages

A broken-down car on the back roads of Kansas is the first in a series of events that plunges a dimwitted everyman smack dab into the middle of a terrorist conspiracy in Callisto, Torsten Krol’s pitch-black satire of the Bush presidency as seen through the eyes of its bumbling protagonist. Odell Deefus, large in stature but short on brains, quickly finds himself at the center of a terrorist probe by the FBI and various other governmental agencies in a post-9/11, Bush-era world of paranoia and corruption. Through a series of unfortunate events and misunderstandings, he becomes a prime suspect in a murder and assassination plot in the search for a homegrown terrorist cell in the fictional town of Callisto, Kansas.

Superb writing immerses us in Odell’s plight from the start; Krol perfectly captures the cadence and diction of Odell’s intellectually-challenged simpleton, painting the character in Forrest Gump-like shades of grammatically-impaired eloquence. Callisto is a darkly hilarious romp through middle America, and perfectly skewers everything we love to hate about the Bush presidency. By the time you finish the novel, you’ll likely thank your lucky stars that change has arrived in D.C., that we have Krol, hailing from Australia, as a promising new voice in literature.

Reviewed by Mark Petruska