Hideout in the Apocalypse is about surveillance and the crushing of Australia's larrikin culture.
In the last three years the Australian government has prosecuted the greatest assault on freedom of speech in the nation's history.
The government knew from international research that when it introduced the panopticon, universal surveillance, into Australia it would have a devastating impact on the culture.
When people know they are being watched, they behave differently. Dissent is stifled, conformity becomes the norm. This is the so-called chilling effect.
Hideout in the Apocalypse, in the great tradition of The Lucky Country, takes Australia's temperature half a century on from Donald Horne's classic cautionary tale.
Now the future has arrived. Forced by a plethora of new laws targeting journalists to use novelistic techniques, in his latest book veteran news reporter John Stapleton confirms the old adage, truth is stranger than fiction.
Hideout in the Apocalypse takes up the adventures of retired news reporter Old Alex, first encountered in the book's predecessor Terror in Australia: Workers' Paradise Lost. But as befits the times, this book is more fantastical, intimate and politically acerbic in its portrait of his beloved country.
Alex believes believes he has been under abusive levels of government surveillance since writing a book called Terror in Australia, and as a natural empath can hear the thoughts of the surveillance teams on his track, the so-called Watchers on the Watch. Alex also believes he is a cluster soul sent with others of his kind to help save the Earth from an impending apocalypse, and has the capacity to channel some of history's greatest writers.
Australia might have the worst anti-freedom of speech laws in the Western world, but how can you sue a character like that?
Stapleton's essential theme: a place which should have been safe from an impending apocalypse, the quagmire of religious wars enveloping the Middle East, is not safe at all.
Ideas are contagious, and the Australian government is afraid of them. Australia is a democracy in name only.The war on terror has become a war on the people's right to know, justifying a massive expansion of state power.
Alex's swirling head, lifelong fascination with sociology, literature and journalism, and his deep distress over the fate of the Great Southern Land, makes him the perfect character to tell a story which urgently needs to be told.