Van Fleisher cohesively ties both fiction and politics together in his novel Final Notice. Genius scientist, Vijay Patel, discovers the precise science of the body to measure someone’s death within 30 days, and issue them a “Final Notice”. The intention of this new science, now converted on to a health/sports watch, VitalTech2, is to allow people with this Final Notice to get their affairs in order before death.
An elderly couple who are owners of the new VT2, Vince and Trudi, are living out their golden years in their “California bubble” until Vince experiences a physical, unprovoked attack due to his older age. This attack triggers Vince to find an interest in the National Rifle Association’s “Armed Seniors Discount”, much to Trudi’s dismay. However, constant national media exposes the alarming rates of crimes against the elderly and gun violence in the country, which eventually persuades the couple to buy their first gun. What could go wrong?
I thoroughly enjoy political satire when combined with fiction, and Van Fleisher definitely delivered this within Final Notice. However, I believe the accounts of the most climactic portions of the novel were very underdeveloped. I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars.
To begin, I loved Vince and Trudi, along with a couple other protagonists, like their friends Rasha and Qasim. Their characteristics were tangible, and even their most mundane tasks were filled with detail. I felt a true connection to Vince and Trudi, and empathized with their fear of the growing gun violence in our country. The author clearly made it a point to give the reader their history right from the start, and incorporated it throughout. The characteristics were not just handed to you – you learned them as the novel continued.
I also really enjoyed the back and forth writing style for each chapter. Every chapter, you were given different locations and perspectives on the victims and perpetrators of gun violence, VitalTech2’s shaky business situation, and the protagonists. It definitely kept me engaged in the novel and upheld its promise of being a “page turner”.
With the book’s strengths in writing style and character development, Final Notice comes up short when compared to other contemporary fiction with political satire. I had a really tough time understanding how a novel with such richly detailed characters and actions had such little information when it came to the actual gun violence and political portions of the novel.
There would be lengthy dialogue between characters discussing politics and problematic policies, yet the events that are the basis of this dialogue is barely described when given its own section in a chapter. Van Fleisher had a major opportunity to truly inject the emotional side of politics with these events and strengthen the main ideas behind Final Notice.
For example, below is an excerpt from a chapter where Stan Mason attempts to pick up the pieces his father left behind after perpetrating a mass murder at the nursing home he was residing.
His mind was a sea of confusion with new questions that popped up like popcorn in a microwave. “Why?” was the one that came up over and over again… As Stan thought about his father’s mental state, suicide wouldn’t have been so difficult to understand; but killing people?
This excerpt could have been a very in depth analysis of the son’s grieving stages for his father and his confusion in the aftermath of the mass murder he committed. Yet the chapter ended after he received a phone call, with no discussion of his feelings or the consequences again.
What I also enjoyed but found confusing was the way the political satire was used. For instance, the author used factual statistics when Vince and Trudi were researching the effects of gun violence in the country. But “facts” within dialogue is incorrect. Below is an excerpt from a dialogue with their friend Rueben, a police officer.
“But let’s be clear, it’s not just racial incidents that are increasing. Violent crime in general is increasing. Break-ins, senseless beatings, and shootings are on the rise.”
I found it odd that this would be incorporated in a novel that seemed to stick with the facts on the politics within it, because it just is not true, and can twist the way people view the book and the main ideas behind it. This may just be my own interest in true crime that immediately knew this “fact” was not valid, but I think sticking to either the complete factual statistics behind it or none at all is the author’s safest option when incorporating politics into the novel.
In its entirety, Final Notice has a lot of potential to become a standout in political satire fiction. I think developing the key political ideas behind it can strengthen the argument Van Fleisher is making in the book, and can also leave an impact on the reader.
Due to its underdevelopment in key political events and the odd use of facts and fiction within the political satire used, I can only rate it 2 out of 4 stars. I did enjoy the novel, and I believe others will too, but it definitely does not reach its maximum potential of being a true protest against political standings today, like other contemporary works.