How would someone practice law when core tenets of the legal system as it’s currently known are gone? How can one lawyer battle a government determined to suppress the ideals that his clients represent?
Those are the questions that protagonist Donny Kimoe seeks to answer in Rule of Capture, author Christopher Brown’s second novel and the first in an intended series. Brown’s first novel, Tropic of Kansas, was a finalist for the 2018 John W. Campbell Award for best science fiction novel.
Rule of Capture: Plot Synopsis
In Rule of Capture, America is reeling after a lost war with China and crippling natural disaster. Kimoe practices law in Houston, where he’s known for defending political criminals that are often only guilty of opposing a corrupt government.
What makes this career path even more treacherous is that the current administration is embroiled in a contested election that stands to alter the future of the country, and those in power have very few limits to what they’ll do to maintain control.
As part of this practice, Kimoe comes to defend Xelina Rocafuerte, an accused insurgent who claims to be nothing more than a documentarian. Kimoe must defend her very life – and perhaps his own – in courtrooms where due process is viewed as an inconvenience and a fair trial is only a right as far as it doesn’t interfere with the government’s best interests. Even full disclosure of evidence to the defense is up to the court’s discretion.
Setting Up a Series
When Rule of Capture hits its stride, the legal and political drama that unfolds is a compelling page-turner that adeptly poses questions about American society. Brown – himself a Texas lawyer – does an excellent job of outlining the way Kimoe navigates an intentionally unfair legal system to hopefully free his client, and this is due in large part to how Brown establishes the rules of the America he’s created. The protagonist isn’t perfect, and his opponents are believable as participants and beneficiaries of such a setting.
The drawback is that establishing that country in written form doesn’t happen easily. The first third or so of the novel reads something like a heavy-handed warning about the perils of our nation’s current path. While there’s certainly room, and perhaps even a need, for that in the literary landscape, the apparent critiques could get in the way of a reader’s full investment in the work itself.
In fact, there are characters and elements of Brown’s America that feel almost underdeveloped, and even the eventual core conflict seems to get more of a surface treatment in the interest of surprise.
If readers do get invested in the story, though, the payoff is worth it. Kimoe’s courtroom and filing maneuvers are intriguing and explore facets of American law that any reader with legal interests will find compelling. Further, those seemingly open criticisms of American politics later serve to set the tone for Kimoe’s uphill battle. And while the ending provides satisfactory resolution for the story in question, it leaves room for a clear series to follow.
In the end, Rule of Capture is a thoughtful novel with the potential to kickstart a unique series of futuristic legal thrillers. A reader that commits to wade deeper into Brown’s established setting will likely be glad to have done so.
You can preorder Rule of Capture on Amazon here ahead of its August 2019 release!