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Radio Free Vermont: A fable of resistance by…
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Radio Free Vermont: A fable of resistance (2017)

by Bill McKibben

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Just GREAT! This was so appealing in these crazy times in which we live---I loved the characters and the story, fable though it is, felt as though it was a description of real people doing real things. Bill McKibben continues to be a true hero of our times with his environmental concerns. ( )
  nyiper | Jul 12, 2018 |
The writers of the reviews I've read have taken McKibben at face value in this piece of fiction, supposing that he's endorsing secession (and quickly moving on to mention the significant ethical considerations of such a pathway). After listening to a few interviews with McKibben on the subject, I can assure you that he has no such agenda. It's better to think of this book as a dark night of the soul of sorts, or a flight of fancy.

If you've ever heard McKibben speak, you'll remember how he begins by rattling off a list of the latest disasters around the globe related to climate change. He's a driven and seemingly-tireless man. I couldn't think of a more "presidential" human. And yet, even such luminary must occasionally have a little fun, and this is where "Radio Free Vermont" comes in.

As you might have guessed from the title, this book is about a resistance movement in Vermont, a secessionist resistance movement. It's also a book about craft beer, biathlon (cross-country skiing and shooting), and Vermont history, culture, and spirit.

I found it both riveting and fun, if a little unbelievable at points. It hit close to home, as I have many Vermont ties, and like to romanticize the place.

Expectedly, there was an undertone of Global Weirding—a strong sense of nostalgia for the magic and rejuvenating powers of winter, and the ways they've been mortally wounded by our relentless "progress."

There are some dark undertones to the text; the protagonists are classified as a "terrorist cell," and the FBI and security contractors are deployed to eliminate them, which felt like a Margaret Atwood attitude. That said, McKibben would be in a better place than most to guess as to what sort of how our government might escalate force against its own citizens, especially in this fascist age of Trump.

If you like Vermont, if you like McKibben, or you're just a little rebellious around the edges, you'll have a lot of fun with this book. ( )
  willszal | Feb 12, 2018 |
As a Vermonter, I really appreciated McKibben's local references. There is a lot of chatter here about independence or joining Canada - all in good fun. And I wish that Sylvia's school for newcomers actually existed. This is a fast, funny read. ( )
  Maya47Bob46 | Dec 27, 2017 |
Welcome to Vermont in the winter of 2017. Donald Trump has been elected president, the winters are more midatlantic mudfest than snowy paradise, and the strange, unique state of Vermont seems more and more in danger of becoming just another bland American state. Enter Vern Barclay, 70 year old radio show host and current leader of a quiet underground movement seeking a free, independent republic of Vermont. Vern comes into his activism more by accident than by malicious intent, but before he knows it, he has become the leader of a movement dedicated to keeping Vermont small, fair, weird, beautiful, and free.

As a University of Vermont alumna and as a former resident of the state, I always enjoy reading stories focused on my former home. McKibben has created a small, odd tale of resistance that mirrors the small, odd state of its setting. Even when I lived in Vermont (which is about a decade ago, now), you could walk into a restaurant and know exactly where the food you were eating came from. Vermont was a localvore haven long before the word was invented. The state is home to way more microbreweries and distilleries than you think you may need. The funky, friendly, live-and-let-live attitude of the majority of the state means that you can have your hippy-dippy Subaru and co-op grocery, and your handguns too. Add to all this the fact that Vermont, being small yet mighty, has made overtures of independence and succession in the past. In fact, one area of the state, called the Northeast Kingdom gets its name from an unsuccessful attempt at sovereignty when the country was young.

What we have in Radio Free Vermont is an uplifting (though very, very white) story of resistance Vermont style, involving calm discussion, reasoned arguments, lots of local beer, minor property damage, cross country skiers, and no violence. This is a resistance with an undercurrent of subtle Yankee humor. This is a resistance of the intimately local, and of neighborly cooperation. It is not loud, or violent, but it is the spark of something beautiful and funny that helps light the darkness of our current times.

An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  irregularreader | Dec 8, 2017 |
This is a fun read. It's very topical and filled with current figures and events. I wonder if it'll feel dated at some point. It's pretty basic ideas and not really a book to inspire or educate people. But that's my issue. It didn't have the depth I was hopping for but I did enjoy it. ( )
  ZephyrusW | Nov 29, 2017 |
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The morning crowd at the Bennington Starbucks moved through the time-honored rituals with rote familiarity:  ordering their caffeine and caramel in pidgin Italian, waiting like school kids for their names to be called, and then either exiting into the faintly cool January air or sinking childlike into an oversized, overplushed armchair for a hit of the Web.
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"A book that's also the beginning of a movement, Bill McKibben's debut novel Radio Free Vermont follows a band of Vermont patriots who decide that their state might be better off as its own republic. As the host of Radio Free Vermont--"underground, underpowered, and underfoot"--seventy-two-year-old Vern Barclay is currently broadcasting from an "undisclosed and double-secret location." With the help of a young computer prodigy named Perry Alterson, Vern uses his radio show to advocate for a simple yet radical idea: an independent Vermont, one where the state secedes from the United States and operates under a free local economy. But for now, he and his radio show must remain untraceable, because in addition to being a lifelong Vermonter and concerned citizen, Vern Barclay is also a fugitive from the law. In Radio Free Vermont, Bill McKibben entertains and expands upon an idea that's become more popular than ever--seceding from the United States. Along with Vern and Perry, McKibben imagines an eccentric group of activists who carry out their own version of guerilla warfare, which includes dismissing local middle school children early in honor of 'Ethan Allen Day' and hijacking a Coors Light truck and replacing the stock with local brew. Witty, biting, and terrifyingly timely, Radio Free Vermont is Bill McKibben's fictional response to the burgeoning resistance movement"--… (more)

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