If I were to rate Boomsday based on its insightful analysis of politics or social trends, or for its well developed characters, I'd only give it three stars. But it is such a hilarious, cynical and entertaining romp through the corrupt swampland of Washington D.C. that I had to give it four.
Christopher Buckley's satirical novel is named after the day when the Baby Boom generation starts to retire. I'm not sure if the word is his invention (and I'm too lazy to Google it right now) or not, but the concept is that younger workers are going to have to pay higher taxes to fund the Boomer's social security checks. Cassandra, the closest thing to a protagonist among the novel's motley array of amoral schemers, is a twenty-nine year old, ex-military PR genius who sets off a near revolution by writing some inflammatory blogs on the issue.
Cass works for a borderline sleazy (well, maybe not so borderline really) PR firm run by a Boomer (everyone in this novel is characterized by their generation, a device that lends itself towards oversimplification, of course) named Terry. During her stint in the army, she became involved with Randy Jepperson (who is constantly reminded that he's no Jefferson), an opportunistic Congressman with presidential aspirations. The three scheme to form a platform that will galvanize younger voters in anti-Boomer anger to vote Randy into the White House. Cass comes up with a rather draconian solution -give Boomer's tax credits if they kill themselves at age seventy.
Boomsday, though obviously a satire, tackles a real issue, though in a rather superficial manner. In this way, it's a bit of a disappointment. The big issues raised by Buckley seem to fizzle out as the novel progresses, reduced to mere fodder for the humor. Yet the book is funny enough that this isn't a total loss. Another criticism is that the characters are not really developed beyond the point of being spokespersons for their generations, causes and lobbies. Oddly enough, the most complex character in the novel is probably Gideon Payne, a fundamentalist Christian preacher who naturally opposes Cass's bizarre solution to the social security problem. While Cass,Terry and Randy spend most of the novel plotting strategy, Gideon goes through something of a moral crisis.
Its rapid pace, funny, snappy dialogue and overall absurdism make Boomsdsay an enjoyable read from start to finish. It's fun in a trashy way, similar to the more entertaining nighttime soaps like Dallas and Melrose Place, where almost everyone is devious and selfish but you can't help but like them anyway. If you have strong political or religious convictions, you might be better off not reading Boomsday. It is likely to offend you, and at best you'll find it trivial and irresponsible. If, however, you are already a total cynic about politics and you like to laugh, I'd definitely recommend it.