Chris D. Dodson’s “Shorting California” offers an interesting exploration of divisive ideologies currently plaguing America. The reader should take note: this is a political commentary and it does an excellent job of inciting emotion through the political lens. Though it has its strengths, the book also falls short in multiple aspects.
“Shorting California” follows social worker, Sean, as his liberal worldviews are challenged, and dark underbellies in every political camp are revealed. The novel explores not just Democratic and Republican ideologies, but also Libertarianism to a commendable degree. I applaud the thought that went into providing representation of all sides, and an intriguing plot based on current tensions, but I found the reading experience less enjoyable.
Most of the characters personify extreme stereotypes: the white-trash, gold-digger; the unscrupulous, wealthy corporate mogul; the self-righteous, politically correct liberal. This may be by design to convey the politics of division, and Dodson clearly attempted to show political inclinations and racism are not restricted by demographics. However, the result is a book full of rather dislikable characters. Also, several tertiary characters are overdeveloped for their parts leaving a feeling of emptiness in their wake.
Overall, the narrative is excessively descriptive and frequently redundant. Moments of intense action or emotion lose their poignancy due to the density of adjectives. Too much space is given to events with relatively little bearing on the story, and to rehashing backgrounds and views of characters as they reappear. Dodson is skilled at creating graphic imagery, but too much of a good thing detracts from the story.
Editing bugs in e-books are expected. Certain formatting glitches can be attributed to bugs in the e-reader software, but others cannot be ignored. Be prepared for several chapters devoid of paragraph distinction towards the end of the book. Also, whatever grammatical errors may slip through the editing process (and there were plenty), there should never be an instance where the wrong character name is used. This happened a couple times, the most notable example being when Sean is referred to as ‘Peter’ on page 490.
If you are interested in exploring extremes of different political persuasions and are not easily deterred by unnecessary tangents or elaborate wordiness, “Shorting California” may be worth a read, but I cannot give it a strong recommendation in its current state.
Amanda King – January 24, 2020