★★★★★ Digging the Golden Fungus: The SwiftPad Insurgency by Lee Barckmann is the sequel to Digging Up New Business: The SwiftPad Takeover, a thriller set in the Pacific Northwest about the birth of a new discussion-based social media app—and the potential deaths of its creators. In the second book, SwiftPad has now taken on a life of its own, spurring arguments between warring factions of opinionated phone addicts all over the world and, ultimately, spiraling out of control. This newly fractured international fearscape mirrors certain events taking place among real-world media outlets today, and raises the stakes for SwiftPad founders Kip “Chubby” Rehain and GG Oglethorpe. When America’s leader—a trash-tweeting president taken over the edge by one too many liberal dissenters—paints a massive bullseye on Kip and GG’s hometown of Portland, they’ll have to assemble all of their allies to stop the city—and nation—from crumbling down upon itself.
In our review of the first book in this series, we mention how difficult it is to truly define the story’s genre. Barckmann shifts tone quite comfortably, moving from standard mystery into sci-fi satire, magical realism, and political allegory. Most significantly, Barckmann is interested in mining the ample vein of antagonism that runs through our country today, examining that conflict from all sides through the lens of rich versus poor, technology versus nature, and imagination versus reality. Barckmann creates a Boschian version of our own confusing political climate, in which natural disasters and governmental ineptitude have led to millions of Americans being displaced from their homes. It’s a stirringly empathetic look at how “refugee” is such a loaded term in today’s world, and how social media guides important conversations like this one—sometimes without our even realizing it.