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Rule of Capture by Christopher Brown

Better Call Saul meets Nineteen Eighty-Four in this first volume in an explosive legal thriller series set in the world of Tropic of Kansas—a finalist for the 2018 Campbell Award for best science fiction novel of the year.

Defeated in a devastating war with China, America is on the brink of a bloody civil war. Seizing power after a controversial election, the ruling regime has begun cracking down on dissidents fighting the nation’s slide toward dictatorship. For Donny Kimoe, chaos is good for business. He’s a lawyer who makes his living defending enemies of the state.

His newest client, young filmmaker Xelina Rocafuerte, witnessed the murder of an opposition leader and is now accused of terrorism. To save her from the only sentence worse than death, Donny has to extract justice from a system that has abandoned the rule of law. That means breaking the rules—and risking the same fate as his clients.

When Donny bungles Xelina’s initial hearing, he has only days to save the young woman from being transferred to a detention camp from which no one returns. His only chance of winning is to find the truth—a search that begins with the opposition leader’s death and leads to a dark conspiracy reaching the highest echelons of power.

Now, Donny isn’t just fighting for his client’s life—he’s battling for his own. But as the trial in the top secret court begins, Xelina’s friends set into motion a revolutionary response that could destroy the case. And when another case unexpectedly collides with Xelina’s, Donny uncovers even more devastating secrets, knowledge that will force him to choose between saving one client . . . or the future of the entire country.

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Praise for Rule of Capture:

“This one is fresh, intelligent, and emotional, with a plot that envisions an alternate reality hard to dismiss as unreal. It’s a legal thriller, with a big twist, stirring and imaginative, brimming with skullduggery, that will have you asking: is this possible?”
-New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry

“A kind of madcap Texas Gothic dark comedy, as the Houston good ole boy network is displayed like a courtroom scene in an unpublished Hunter S Thompson novel […] It moves rocketing along at a ferocious pace–and then it lingers, haunting you.”
-Cory Doctorow, for BoingBoing

“RULE OF CAPTURE is a taut, smart legal thriller set five minutes into the future in a dystopian post-war America that looks scarily plausible from the vantage point of 2019, and marks Brown as one of our most tuned-in science fiction writers.”
-Adrian McKinty, Edgar and Ned Kelly Award-winning author of THE CHAIN and RAIN DOGS

“Peel back the dystopian and science fiction layers of this fast moving and entertaining story, and what remains is a smart, taut legal thriller bound to keep readers turning pages deep into the night.”
-Robert Bailey, bestselling author of the McMurtrie & Drake legal thriller series

“Interpersonal drama fuels the story as much as legal maneuvering, and Brown keeps tight control of his narrative even as this alternate America slips its gears.”
-Publishers Weekly

“This dark, dystopian story will appeal equally to readers of John Grisham and Cory Doctorow.” -Booklist

“An exhilarating, all too real journey into a scary place, where the fall of democracy is sure to be streamlined: the courts. Chris Brown’s frenetic prose will keep you turning the pages, make you laugh, and fill you with horror—it’s the long awaited, judicial dystopian thriller for our times.”
-Fernando Flores, author of Tears of the Trufflepig

“Compelling, timely, and disturbing, Brown’s expertly crafted legal drama asks a number of tough questions: when the collapse comes, what role will you play? Will you be complicit? Will you stand and fight? Or will you carry on, business as usual? And perhaps more urgently: has that collapse already started?”
-Tim Maughan, author of Infinite Detail

“A sharp, no-holds-barred view into a desperate future that is terrifyingly close to our present. This is the stuff of which today’s nightmares are made.”
-Eileen Gunn, author of Questionable Practices

“RULE OF CAPTURE is a smart and stirring political thriller set in a dystopian America that feels like an unsettling version of our own waiting in the shadows. Brown’s world is deeply immersive, his concepts richly realized, his themes sweeping but centering on the imperative and cost of resisting tyranny.”
-Craig DiLouie, author of Our War


“The first class they taught them in law school was called Property. The first case they taught them in Property was about how you make the things in nature your property through kill or capture.”

There was a big war, it was lost, whilst fresh out of law school in a law firm with the country broken, that was then, and now, Donald Kimoe has great test unlike any other before, a task at hand being..
“Getting justice at secret trials for people the government wanted to disappear was not easy.”

Whilst there is this status of the country:

Defeat meant the end of empire. Economic sanctions, scarcity where there had been abundance, more people fighting over the less that was left. The rich hoarded what they had won in the years before, hiding in gated communities and shell companies guarded by privatized police and smart lawyers. The more irrelevant the American flag became in a time of worldwide crisis, the more some people started to wave it, on the news and on the job, trying to conjure the return of a past that had never really been.
The instability was compounded by deeper changes in the population, changes everyone had long known were coming, the same way they knew the heavy weather was coming, neither of which changes anyone could stop. The people who had the power saw that to keep it, they needed to use it to make sure those changes didn’t take it away. So they went to war on the future.”

Christopher Brown, an author, also a lawyer who is successfully one of these, “Texans with good bullshit detectors and a strong sense of justice,” running parallel with his memorable protagonist, a fighter of injustices and undoing terrible histories or at least, “I’m fighting with them, right here, the only way I know how. One case at a time.”

A needed tale with at its the core zealous advocacy, fiction writing with speculative realism in a dystopian America needing saving.

This one a birth of imaginative writing from something like characters, thoughts, and worlds of The Firm, Better Call Saul, and 1984 combined.

I like what he’s doing with his writings.
The first book Tropic of Kansas was more adventure and thriller this one more slow burner, deeper and cerebral, a lawyer in conflict with the system all adding to this Tropic of Kanas world.

You may learn to keep away from using White-Out and being recipient of a Mary Lou.
A Military and martial law kaleidoscope with aarticulate and intelligent tale with inception to the dystopian and the relevant world becoming undone before your eyes, set by step, law by law, with the land of residency under scrutiny, all penetrating the consciousness of the reader for further contemplation and serious concern of the world to come in the next episode of this world of Tropic of Kansas and never reality.

In my interview with the author he said what follows about this work:

Lou Pendergrast

You have a novel out August 13, 2019, described by publisher Harper Voyager as the “first volume in an explosive legal thriller series set in the world of Tropic of Kansas.” So this is both the first volume and a follow-on from the previous book. What can readers expect to find in this new work of yours? Especially in terms of characters and setting.


Christopher Brown

My new novel Rule of Capture is the story of a burnt out lawyer named Donny Kimoe who makes his living defending political dissidents in a USA drifting into totalitarianism. He represents alleged insurgents who have been hauled before a special emergency court created after martial law is declared in disaster-ridden parts of the Gulf Coast. His main client in the book is a young journalist named Xelina Rocafuerte who is accused of being a terrorist in an effort to silence her after she witnesses the assassination of an opposition leader.  When Donny screws up Xelina’s case because he’s distracted with another matter, and with his own personal problems, he has just days to fix the mess he’s made before she is sent to the secret prison camp from which no one returns. That means breaking the rules, exposing the conspiracy behind the regime in power, and risking the same fate as his clients.

The book is set in the same world as Tropic of Kansas, and both Donny and Xelina first appeared in that book as secondary characters. But Rule of Capture takes place earlier in time, in a setting that feels closer to our contemporary reality, and yet even more different—an America that has been defeated in a war with China, ravaged by extreme weather, and subjected to international sanctions and austerity. Rule of Capture is a dystopian novel, but one that tries to make more room for humor—even if it’s gallows humor. 

The book I’m writing now for publication in 2020 as a follow-on to Rule of Capture tells the story of the same lawyer defending people in front of the tribunals of a post-revolutionary utopia. My idea is that you first have to go deep into the dark places to find your way to the light. “Utopia” by definition is a place that does not exist, but I’m trying to get as close as I can. And I think ecology—which thematically underpins all three books—is the key.

Read the rest –> Interview with Christopher Brown On writing and his new novel Rule of Capture 


“They can raise their voices and protest all they want, but the lawyers are in charge now.”
And Donny thought he was half right. Certain lawyers were in charge, the lawyers who served power as their real client, at the expense of principle. The lawyers who write the memos that make it legal to end the rule of law.
Donny had been one of those lawyers, for the money, until they kicked him out for his politics, after they had already demoted him for following the law. They kept him down here in the basement of institutional reality, to keep up appearances, for themselves and for the system. That was the idea.”

“I guess selling out justice to the owners and their pet police doesn’t pay so good.”
Donny smiled in grudging agreement and sat down across from her. He’d made less money every successive year since he left the firm, and now these court appointments were his only reliable source of income. Enough to pay his rent and service the loans that had paid for his law degree, without much left over for the increasingly expensive extracurricular activities that helped him manage the stress.
“Not enough to buy my independence,” he said, wondering if even he really believed that anymore.”

“One of the memos was an analysis of each of nine proposed “interrogation enhancements” to be used on high-value suspects. The techniques were listed by their code names, and then by their clinical descriptions. Cigar Store Indian was the forced standing position for an extended period of time. The Mary Lou was hanging by wrist restraints from the ceiling with toes just touching the floor. Hockey Boards was what it sounded like. Midnight Express was a gratuitous rectal probe. Growler was the use of dogs. Dr. Strange Please Call Surgery was the one where the captive was locked in a small lightless box, sometimes with an insect. Jacques Cousteau was simulated drowning. The Major’s favorite was Mary Lou.”

Jerome before execution:
“I am here because I decided to talk back. And teach others how to stand up and take care of themselves. Not fighting each other like they want us to, tearing up our own streets and hurting our own families and neighbors. Fighting the city, the state, the whole country. Standing up for the people, for real democracy, against the people with the power and money who know democracy is no longer on their side. Standing up for the land they brought our ancestors here to steal from our other ancestors, and then to make the whole place their slave the way they made people their slaves. The only rebellion I called for was mental. Teaching people how to take care of themselves and their people. Now I know it really is time. Time to make our own new country with our own rules, ones based on real democracy and human rights and love for the land that feeds us. So my only crime is that I am the future they want to abolish. You are that future, too, a future they can’t stop any more than they can keep the sky they have poisoned from drowning their mansions, or the bodies of their grandchildren from carrying the seeds of a whole planet finally coming together to build a new model of community. It’s coming, and they can’t stop it. See y’all in the future. The real future. Not the one these assholes are trying to kill by killing me. They don’t know they’re just making it come sooner.”

“They held each other’s gaze for what seemed a very long time, and what Donny felt through the mostly vicarious stress of the moment and the unexpected evocation of Jerome’s words and the layers of simultaneously clarifying and clouding intoxicants Donny had ingested was the sense of some tenuous mental connection through the space between them, almost like a handoff had just occurred. Jerome’s case wasn’t over. The price of losing was that Donny was now bound to carry on Jerome’s fight, on his own terms. If he could discharge that duty, it could make everything that had happened to this moment worth it. Acts of liberation, Jerome once said to him, are illegal until the liberators win and rewrite the rules. The feeling of forgiveness and purpose that came over him did not make what followed any easier to watch.”


Christopher Brown is the author of TROPIC OF KANSAS, a finalist for the 2018 John W. Campbell Award for best science fiction novel of the year. His new novel RULE OF CAPTURE, the beginning of a series of speculative legal thrillers, is forthcoming from Harper Voyager in 2019. He was a World Fantasy Award nominee for the anthology Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic. His short fiction and criticism has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including MIT Technology Review, LitHib,, and The Baffler. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he also practices law.