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A Story of Violence – “Vigilance” by Robert Jackson Bennett

By July 21, 20197 Comments


From the publisher, “Robert Jackson Bennett’s Vigilance is a dark science fiction action parable from an America that has permanently surrendered to gun violence.

The United States. 2030. John McDean executive produces “Vigilance,” a reality game show designed to make sure American citizens stay alert to foreign and domestic threats. Shooters are introduced into a “game environment,” and the survivors get a cash prize.

The TV audience is not the only one that’s watching though, and McDean soon finds out what it’s like to be on the other side of the camera.”


  • 5 Very enthusiastic stars.
  • 208 pages
  • Expected publication: January 29th, 2019 by
  • Original Title Vigilance
  • ISBN1250209439 (ISBN13: 9781250209436)

My Thoughts

It is a terrible and wondrous thing to be so stunned by a story you lose your ability to use words. This story literally stunned me into silence. The only response I could muster for the first day after finishing was, “That was fucked.”

I’ll tell you why. I am from Las Vegas, Nevada. Born and bred. On October 1st of 2017, my hometown was visited by the worst act of mass gun violence in US history. I watched the news in horror as people ran for cover. I searched the videos streaming on youtube with tears running down my face looking for people I knew. I looked for my family. Thankfully none of my family and friends were involved in the shooting, but only just. I know lots of people who work in the hotels. On December 11th of 2012, the Clackamas Town Center mall was riddled with holes as a single gunman went in and shot shoppers. At the time of the shooting, I lived 800 feet from the entrance of the mall. My husband was home during the shooting, although he didn’t hear anything and oddly enough I was in Las Vegas at the time. It still significantly affected us. I was having lunch in the food court, exactly where the gunman shot people 1-week prior. I was not directly involved in that shooting, but for a month afterwards, I saw the masses of flowers and teddy bears laid out on the Clackamas sign. People died 800 feet from my home.

“The more people were afraid, the more they bought guns. The more guns that were around, the more people tended to use them on each other. The more they used them on each other, the more they were afraid—and so, the more everyone bought guns.”

Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett

I am an American, and my life has been touched by gun violence if only by proximity to it and that is the point when it comes to this story. Gun violence by proximity. Most of the story is about people watching gun violence take place elsewhere. It is over there. In that mall with those people, you don’t know. Viewers eyes are glued to the screen, and they wonder what is going to happen. They armchair quarterback what the victims would do or not do. It is chilling and so very real. John McDean’s job in this story is to ask, “how do we get more people watching?” “How do we manage this and cause these scenarios to happen?” We create Fear. America is a nation of Fear. Let’s feed that! He produces scenarios where Americans worst fears are played out for the masses in an engorged “Bread and Circuses” scenario. It is a vicious cycle that feeds on itself like an ouroboros and Bennett created the perfect story around that idea.

The heart of the matter was that, from the beginning, America had always been a nation of fear.”

Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett

Mcdean is disgusting, he is immoral, and not too far from how the media handles these things right now. I have never been disgusted by a character as much as I was with him. In 10 years, maybe 20 who knows perhaps we will have a Running Man by Stephen King or a Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett television show on our hands. Or, maybe books like this will help us wise up and see what we are doing to ourselves. I don’t know, but I can hope. Read this. Read it if you are American, read it if you are not. Just read it. It is worthy of your time and money.

The quotes were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.


ARC provided by in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author

Robert Jackson Bennett is a two-time award winner of the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, an Edgar Award winner for Best Paperback Original, and is also the 2010 recipient of the Sydney J Bounds Award for Best Newcomer, and a Philip K Dick Award Citation of Excellence. City of Stairs was shortlisted for the Locus Award and the World Fantasy Award. City of Blades was a finalist for the 2015 World Fantasy, Locus, and British Fantasy Awards. His eighth novel, FOUNDRYSIDE, will be available in the US on 8/21 of 2018 and the UK on 8/23.


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