Title: Moral Authority
Author: Jacob Z. Flores
Characters: Mark and Isaac
Sub-Genre: LGBT dystopian political thriller
In the year 2050, America has changed. Profoundly. Homosexuality is a crime, cursing in public is a punishable offense, and lifestyle legislation keeps American citizens on a prescribed moral path. The country lives in a Moral Age, all thanks to The Moral Authority, the nation’s fourth branch of government, which has held dominion for the past thirty-five years. Yet the Moral Age comes at a price. Americans either live like mindless cattle or in fear. Told from three points of view, Mark, the brash young hero, who finds true love in the most desolate of places; Isaac, the renegade, who searches for redemption, and Samuel the dictatorial megalomaniac intent on maintaining his power, Moral Authority exposes what happens to a nation that continues to restrict, instead of broadening, civil rights.
The year is 2050 in the United States of America. Democracy is a distant memory, and the current government is a four-armed fascist system which is ruled by a supreme leader who is referred to as the Moral Chancellor. In reality, he is the country’s dictator and the ruler of the highest branch of government called the Moral Authority.
Protagonist Mark Bryan is a college student and journalist who takes exception to the Orwellian laws that have been imposed upon society by the Moral Authority. Not only does he struggle with the moral standards of conduct which are rigidly enforced by the Moral Police, but he also is opposed to the outright ban the government has placed upon homosexuality.
Mark is himself gay, albeit closeted. All gay people are closeted, though, for it is illegal to embrace any form of self-identity which is contrary to heterosexuality. The moral police are very diligent in tracking down offenders, and sting operations are frequently conducted to identify and imprison violators.
Mark meets a man to whom he’s attracted and cautiously begins to cultivate a relationship. Soon he finds himself in the midst of a sting, and is sentenced to imprisonment. This occurs around the time a crackdown has been implemented. The Moral Chancellor is impatient to root out all forms of deviant sexual behavior once-and-for-all, and has a passionate hatred for homosexuals especially.
Concurrent to Marks arrest and prison sentence, an uprising ensues within the country. Rebel forces which are led by the Human Rights Campaign begin to openly defy the government. Their efforts are well-coordinated and draw the attention of the media. It appears the nation is on the verge of civil war.
Meanwhile, Mark finds himself in a detainment camp which has been created specifically for homosexuals. Several of these camps have been established throughout the country in much the same manner as were Hitler’s extermination camps of Nazi Germany. The atrocities that Mark and the other prisoners face are unspeakable. Brutalized, tortured, starved, executed, sodomized, and repeatedly beaten—the prisoners are humiliated and degraded in every imaginable way.
In spite of the horrors Mark faces, he somehow manages to cling to the hope that freedom will prevail. He is an inspiration to his fellow prisoners, many of whom he watches suffer and die at the hands of camp’s sadistic overlords. Miraculously, Mark finds love in the midst of this Hell on Earth, and he manages to remain focused on his dream that America will one day return to its principles of liberty and the right to the pursuit of happiness for all its citizens.
Moral Authority is a heartbreaking story. It is a page-turner that is excruciating to read yet impossible to put down. The story itself is horrific, yet its message is profound. It is thought-provoking and terrifying in the sense that gives the reader pause—is it possible that we as a nation could fall victim to a system of imposed, legislated “morality” such as this?
The writing appears seasoned, and I was rather astonished that the work was written by a first-time, self-published author. The editing is fairly precise and highly professional. From a critical standpoint, large segments of the beginning chapters are told in passive voice. As the story progresses, the author begins to “show” much more than “tell”, however.
The plot was well-thought out; the historical and geographical references appeared to be well-researched. Most of the chronology seemed plausible to me, although I did have some questions as to exactly how we as a nation got from where we are today to a place that embraced fascism. Although I’m dying to read a sequel to this novel, I would also welcome a prequel. There was no explanation of what happened to the Democratic Party. Where were all the liberals when the country’s rights were being stripped? I find it hard to believe they would have stood idly by and allowed the nation to travel so quickly down this slippery slope.
In spite of the questions I have about the story’s premise, I found this to be a fascinating read. I was moved emotionally on more than one occasion, and I stayed up most of the night reading through to the end. I think this book is extremely powerful, and it is without hesitation that I recommend it highly.
I offer one caveat: The book may be disappointing to those who insist upon an HEA ending.
Reviewed By: Jeff