As its name indicates, the NLA is wary of the mind-numbing effects of certain technology but its true ideological roots seem akin to the Tea Party. "We were never meant to have full-time, ever-growing bureaucracy whose sole intent is to constantly crank out new limits on us," one NLA member tells Cab. Likewise, the NLA's almost inadvertent leader says it "uncovered the modern patriots. Conversations evolved from excessive property taxes to reclaiming the federal government." Although far from as politically motivated or direct, the political foundations of the NLA and the government-driven conspiracies means Ephemera may bring last year's novel by Glenn Beck to the mind of somewhat politically attuned readers.
Anderson, though, deserves credit for not expressly espousing or endorsing any particular political viewpoint. The dystopia is not shaped by aspects of society that concern only one end of the political spectrum. You can find elements that concern each side and, in fact, the book may suggest that, at times, the extreme ends are more closely aligned than they might think. Somewhat inconsistent pacing keeps Ephemera from a page-turning thriller. Still, Anderson hides the ball well enough that the reader remains intrigued about exactly what Stillman has up his sleeve and the purpose of some of the deceptions the NLA uncovered. This helps maintain the tension between who is wearing the white hats and who the black hats. Both sides are sufficiently gray throughout the novel, although when the ultimate plot is unveiled it is akin to that of a James Bond villain and one wonders about just how and why we got there.
For a first novel, Ephemera is a workmanlike dystopian set piece that finds a credible basis in modern America, particularly public infatuation with ephemera and diversions over substance and reality. While an entertaining read, it is ultimately unlikely to make anyone's list of the best dystopian novels of the last decade or two.