Book Review: The SIN of Addison Hall, by Jeffrey A. Onorato

May 11, 2010

The SIN of Addison Hall by Jeffrey A. Onorato

The SIN of Addison Hall

“The word ‘well’ is relative, isn’t Mr. Hall?” –Professor Pankewitz

In the tradition of Huxley’s Brave New World and Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron, Jeffrey A. Onorato brings us a new absurd dystopia in his novel, The SIN of Addison Hall. In the country of Alpdon, war and recession set the stage for a charismatic leader, Brock, to rise to power. The citizens, desperate for change, allow him to create laws based on radical ideas in order to stabilize the economy and bring prosperity back to the country. Blaming the woes of the country on the outcasts of society, Brock’s Administration sets up four castes based not on race or intelligence, but rather on physical beauty. The most beautiful of the citizens are called the Blessed, next is the Favored, followed with the Burdened, and the Cursed. All the country’s resources are focused on the Blessed and Favored, and they are given more rights and privileges than the Burdened and the Cursed, so naturally they become superior to their oppressed countrymen in almost every way. It is against this backdrop that we meet Onorato’s anti-hero, Addison Hall.

Every man who has been infatuated with a woman who is out of his league can immediately identify with Addison Hall in the opening scene of the first chapter. Addison nervously waits in line in a futuristic coffee shop. As he plans out making his move with the cashier, he does everything wrong, and even though she is in his caste of Burdened, he is promptly and shamefully rejected. Addison is a complex character that anyone who has felt the sting of rejection and loneliness can have empathy for. Addison proves to be an intelligent and compassionate man, but living in a society where beauty is valued above all else, his self esteem is beaten down to make his redeeming qualities almost impotent. As Brock seeks to maintain his power through tightening his grip on the Burdened and the Cursed, Addison is faced with a series of conflicts which threaten the little bit of freedom that he enjoyed. He meets an unlikely ally in a Blessed woman named Otka, who claims to see a “sweet soul” in Addison. Except for Addison’s best friend, who is a cursed, Otka is really the only likeable character in the novel. Everyone else is self absorbed in one way or another. Either they are shallow and obsessed with their own beauty and pleasure, or they spend their time in self depravation while they curse their fate. Otka seems to be the only character of the higher castes that treats every one with dignity despite their appearance. We learn that her kindness is based on her faith in an archaic type of Christianity long forgotten by most people of her time. But even Otka turns out to be motivated by self fulfillment rather than any sense of altruism. When Brock begins to abuse his power through lies and manipulation to force the Cursed and the Burdened into slaves, Otka has obvious sympathy for them, but rather than making any attempt to change her society, she chooses to pull one man out and save him for what turns out to be her own needs.

The SIN of Addison Hall forces us to take a good hard look at our sexually charged society obsessed with physical beauty. Onorato reveals to us what our obsession with plastic surgery, fad diets, and the dressed up images of men and women in movies and magazines and the internet can lead to if taken to extremes. He takes the high school mentality that the most beautiful and handsome obviously must be the most intelligent and best skilled and puts it on a larger scale. It’s doubtful that unattractive(by our society’s standards anyway), yet self-confident, intelligent men and women would allow themselves to be enslaved in the way that Brock manages to enslave the Burdened and Cursed in the country of Alpdon; however, Oronato hits home in his critique of the shallow existence that is steadily increasing in American society. Just a glance at who our collective idols are reveals that we value physical beauty over skill, heart and intelligence. Fewer and fewer Americans concern themselves with education of any real depth. To investigate the truth of the matter is not worth the effort; it is easier to believe what the media tells us to. We don’t accept any spirituality or religion that makes us look at the dark truth of who we are and provokes us to make difficult changes, we only want to worship at temples that make us feel good about ourselves—the temple of self. One of the most intriguing chapters of the book is when Addison wanders into a church service for the first time since he was a young child. What he finds there is not surprising when you look at the cult of self creeping into our churches today. Jesus has been taken off the cross and put up on a platform. The Bible has been edited and rewritten to meet the desires and fads of society rather than the spiritual needs of the people. Any scriptures encouraging Christians to strive to be morally perfect like Jesus have been transformed into striving to be physically perfect “without spot or blemish.” The worship service literally has been transformed into something close to aerobics or jazzercise, and the preacher is reduced to a motivational speaker at a pep rally only meant to boost the self esteem of the physically blessed and favored of society.  

Anyone who loves dystopian literature will enjoy The SIN of Addison Hall. Oronato focuses on our obsession with physical beauty and the resulting shallowness, but his satire and critique of society reach beyond that. If you have any friends who spend more time looking in the mirror and managing their looks rather than looking into themselves and managing their souls, The SIN of Addison Hall might just be the wake up call they need to discover what is really important in life.

If interested: http://www.blockislandbooks.com/SinPage.html 

Peter L Richardson
5/11/10

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