Benjamin Parzybok - published September 2014
paper · $16 · 9781618730862 | ebook · 9781618730879 · Audiobook
As drought-stricken, Portland, Oregon, falls apart, a new city rises from within.
Now available: A Reader's Guide and Companion to Sherwood Nation (355). [free pdf download]
Spokane (SPR): The Bookshelf
Portland (KBOO): Between the Covers · Author Interview · Old Mole Variety Hour
Seattle (KUOW): If Portland Collapsed, How Would The City Fare? (interview on “The Record”)
Water rations are down to one gallon per person per day . . . the mayor is proposing digging a trench to the Pacific Ocean . . . dried out West Coast cities are crumbling and being abandoned by the east . . . and in Portland, Oregon, water is declared a communal right but hoarding and riots persist.
Amidst this, a young water activist nicknamed Maid Marian (a.k.a. Renee, 20-something, barista and eternal part-time college student) becomes a hero. She rides her swelling popularity in opposition to the city government and becomes an icon to a city in need.
Even as Maid Marian and her compatriots build a new community one neighbor at a time, they make powerful enemies in the city government and the National Guard. Their idealistic dream is quickly caught up in a brutal fight for survival.
Sherwood Nation is a post-collapse non-apocalyptic novel. It is the story of the rise and fall of a micronation within a city. It is a love story, a war story, a grand social experiment, a treatise on hacking and remaking government, on freedom and necessity, on individualism and community.
“Rich with haunting descriptions of a place once wild and now starved and poignant human dilemmas of basic survival, Sherwood Nation is a manifesto on how communities can work together to improve the greater good that does not shy from, sugarcoat, or exaggerate the corruptions of power and outcomes of rebellion. For a political treatise set in an imaginable apocalypse, Parzybok’s second novel is refreshing in its lack of heavy-handed allegory or pedantic utopian preaching. Maid Marian reaches beyond herself to create peace and solidarity in hopeless times. Threatened, others desire her demise and position. It is a clever, if cautionary tale.”
— Electric Literature
“Set in Portland Oregon after a massive drought has crippled American society west of the Mississippi, Sherwood Nation is a different kind of dystopian novel. No magic. No zombies. No tyrannical overlords ruling with iron fists and tournaments. It brings a fascinating realism to the genre, creating a uniquely human and tangible version of the apocalypse story. Sherwood Nation is about real people grappling with an all too real catastrophe in ways that reveal aspects of our culture today, while exploring the best, worst, and, most importantly, the vague middle between the two ideals, of what we could be.”—Josh Cook, Porter Square Books (interview)
“Parzybok’s achievements are manifold here. First, he tells a gripping story whose lineaments are never predictable. There are great suspenseful set pieces, like the theft of a water truck and a shootout in Sherwood. The entire action is compressed into about two weeks or so, but feels like a whole saga: birth, maturity, and death of a kingdom.”
“A group of idealists, led by a charismatic young woman, struggle to remake society in postapocalyptic Portland, Ore.”
“Sherwood Nation has left me with memorable images that will, no doubt, be triggered over time. There’s something heavy real in its imaginings—something that almost compels me to pray for rain.”
—NW Book Lovers
“The gritty world in Sherwood Nation and the circumstances that changed a former barista into a figure of hope is a story that focuses more on the consequences of disaster rather than the disaster itself.”
— Geeky Library
“I finished Parzybok’s book not really feeling as though I’d read a work of fiction but more like a finely orchestrated prophecy with believable characters and likely scenarios. I certainly haven’t looked at water the same way and probably won’t ever again. Read Parzybok’s novel and prepare for battle. We have been duly notified.”
— New Pages
“With climate change and ever-increasing consumption, running out of water is a danger we don’t readily acknowledge, yet Benjamin Parzybok’s Sherwood Nation makes that danger vividly real. . . . Here we see how people behave in crisis—some better and some worse—and how idealism, self-concerned realism, and the personal hang in a balance; friends, alliances, and enemies are made, and, most effectively, Renee’s boyfriend, Zach, and Renee herself grow (and glow) as things get tough. Ben, who’s Portland-based, is the creator or co-creator of numerous projects, including Gumball Poetry and the Black Magic Insurance Agency, a city-wide, one night alternate reality game, so he knows about building community. He’s done a great job here, but let’s hope the richly detailed “Sherwood Nation” never really has to come to be.”
“Parzybok is riffing on the Robin Hood story, to be sure, but he also layers on some astute social and political commentary, and he’s built a fully functioning and believable future world. Give this one to fans of Adam Sternbergh’s Shovel Ready (2014).”
“Benjamin Parzybok is one of our most imaginative literary inventors. In Sherwood Nation he gives us a vision of Portland’s rebellious indie spirit that goes deeper than the usual caricatures, revealing a city alive with conflict and possibility. This is playful, serious, and profoundly humanizing art.” — Ryan Boudinot (Blueprints of the Afterlife)
“Benjamin Parzybok has reached into the post-collapse era for a story vital to our here and now. Sherwood Nation is part political thriller, part social fable, and part manifesto, its every page brimming with gonzo exuberance.”—Jedediah Berry (The Manual of Detection)
“Parzybok does this thing where you think, ‘this is fun!’ and then you are charmed, saddened, and finally changed by what you have read. It’s like jujitsu storytelling.”—Maureen F. McHugh (After the Apocalypse)
“Portland is a rare outpost, with a semi-functional municipality, but the burdens of relentless rationing and an increasingly apparent division between those who go thirsty and those who do not, make for prime tinder. It takes just one minor act of symbolic monkey wrenching to set this tale ablaze.
“Couch has remained in my consciousness because it goes “out there” to find its core (think Douglas Adams, Tom Robbins, Gabriel Garcia Marquez). What makes Sherwood so compelling and, frankly, often terrifying, is how close to home it lives.
“This Portland is totally familiar, invoking the attitudes and spirit of today’s residents and details from the recent political landscape. It feels like the place we know — until a nightly power blackout or parade of National Guard water distribution tankers jars us with a reminder that this is, thankfully, a work of very good fiction.”
— Register Guard
Praise for Benjamin Parzybok’s first novel, Indie Next Pick, Couch
“Beyond the good old-fashioned story, Couch meditates on heroism and history, but above all, it’s an argument for shifting your life around every now and then, for getting off the couch and making something happen.”—The L Magazine
Benjamin Parzybok is the author of the novel Couch and has been the creator/co-creator of many other projects, including Gumball Poetry, The Black Magic Insurance Agency (city-wide, one night alternate reality game), and Project Hamad. He lives in Portland with the artist Laura Moulton and their two kids.
Follow him on twitter: @sparkwatson