Callisto is a satirical black comedy of an American novel written, ironically, by a New Zealander, pseudonymed Torsten Krol. Perhaps it takes an outsider to see the forest for the trees where the trees are patriotism in the wake of 9/11 and the forest is Bush’s War on Terror. Krol has an acute eye and shares his vision with humor.
The narrator, protagonist and anti-hero of Callisto is one Odell Deefus, a 22-year old lost soul from Wyoming. Estranged from his nasty father and bored with his job at a grain silo, Odell decides to join the Army to go fight against the “Muslimites.” As the author notes in the book’s afterward, his “hero is someone who actually thinks the Iraq conflict is something a true patriot should take part in …” – not to mention that serving in the war against Iraq may help Odell in his quest to meet his one true love, Condoleezza Rice.
Unfortunately for Odell, his beater of a car breaks down in Callisto, Kansas, before he reaches the recruiting office. He wanders down a driveway, looking for help, and into the life of Dean Lowry, lawn-mowing impresario. Dean is suspicious and paranoid at first, but after some beers and most of a bottle of Captain Morgan spiced rum, the two seem to get along just fine. Until Dean startles a drunken Odell out of a sound sleep and ends up with a baseball bat upside the head for his trouble.
Things start to spiral for Odell: there is already a dead body in the freezer in Dean’s basement; Dean and his florid sister Lorraine, a corrections officer at the local penitentiary, are drug-runners; plus there’s all those lawns that need mowing. Some nosy televangelists, mistakenly thinking Odell to be a Koran-reading Dean, are out to save his soul. The local cops start sniffing around, and, between the body in the basement and the Koran, Homeland Security, the FBI and, finally, the CIA get called in. It’s all Odell can do to keep track of which lies he’s told to what agencies and which truths are the ones he believes in.