Chosen for the 2016 Silicon Valley Reads program.
"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, author of After the Apocalypse
In drought-stricken Portland, Oregon, a Robin Hood-esque water thief is caught on camera redistributing an illegal truckload of water to those in need. Nicknamed Maid Marian—real name: Renee, a twenty-something barista and eternal part-time college student—she is an instant folk hero. Renee rides her swelling popularity and the public's disgust at how the city has abandoned its people, raises an army . . . and secedes a quarter of the city.
Even as Maid Marian and her compatriots build their community one neighbor at a time, they are making powerful enemies amongst the city government and the National Guard. Sherwood is an idealistic dream too soon caught in a brutal fight for survival.
Sherwood Nation 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.
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. He blogs at secret.ideacog.
A catastrophic drought leaves Portland, Ore., suffering from daily power outages and water-rationing. The exhausted, hapless mayor and his ineffectual leadership bring no relief: the wealthy still get extra water shipments, and the poor still suffer the most. In response, former barista Renee and her activist friends stage a holdup of an illegal water truck. The action is caught on film by a TV crew, and Renee is instantly and with no small whiff of sexism dubbed "Maid Marian," after "Robin Hood's girlfriend." She becomes first a symbol of rebellion and then a reluctant leader of the "nation of Sherwood," formerly northeast Portland. Parzybok's self-conscious reinvention of the Robin Hood legend is well-founded on contemporary environmental, social, and economic concerns, but the story would be better served if the idiosyncratic wit of Renee's letters to her boyfriend, Zach, were on display in the rest of the book. A rambling plot, erratic pacing, and oversimplified characterizations undermine this fable of the clash between political idealism and harsh reality in a plausible near-future state of extremity.