Book Review: Aristopia

For an older manuscript, ‘Aristopia’ is a quick read, if not a frustrating one for anybody who loves history.  Written in 1895 by Castello N. Holford, the book is only about 240-pages in length and 35 short chapters in total.

Billed as an ‘Utopian novel,’ it’s considered to be the first novel-length, alternate history ever written about the founding of America. The story-line however reverses the normal Utopian ideal by instead of imagining a better society at a future time or in a far-off place, Holford creates a fictionalized founding of the United States.

In the end, for me, it wasn’t so much a Utopian story as it is a fanciful tale that couches the ideals of Socialism in such a way that it becomes appealing to the general masses. Further evidence of this can be found in the final few pages; advertisements for other books of fiction about social and economic change and finally, reformation, which would eventually become the cornerstone of Teddy Roosevelt’s 1901 presidential platform, “The Square Deal.”

Each ad comes with a side note like: “A story of the Struggles of Honest Industry under Present Day Condition” and “A powerfully Dramatic Novel, dealing with the Struggles of the Poor in City and Country.”  Historically speaking, when ‘Aristopia’, was first published, the U.S. was beginning its transformation from a Constitutional Republic to the democratic nation of today.

‘Arena Publishing Company,’ the publisher that put ‘Aristopia,’ on book shelves is known to have specialized in fiction and non-fiction books on Progressive causes of the era. Though in existence from 1890 to 1896, Arena had been known by other book-mongers as “the notoriously radical Arena Publishing Company.”

Lastly, I’m working on a new ‘chapter’ story that I hope to have finished soon, with the first installment being published tomorrow. I am trying figure out how I can have the main character interact with this book, which he finds a Nevada mining camp where he’s employed as a caretaker.


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