Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Review: Tenth of December

Tenth of December by George Saunders

George Saunders returns to several of his major themes in this collection of stories: SF-tinged tales of dealing with new behavior-altering drugs on the lines of Jonathan Franzen's Aslan; theme parks or horrible behavioral experiments; and people caught up in deciding whether to do right. I very much enjoyed his first collection, Civilwarland in Bad Decline, but I was a bit uncomfortable with the gloomy outlook on life it portrayed. These are much more "positive" stories, in that we find normal heroes (and one self-justifying louse) who have to choose whether to do good (or in one case avoid doing more bad). We come to like these heroes, particularly the children in the first story, "Victory Lap," and the lonely child and troubled adult in the final one, "Tenth of December." Probably the best, however, is "Escape From Spiderhead," in which a man subjected to mood-altering drugs must come to decide whether to inflict doses of pain on women to whom he's just made love -- it encapsulates our prescription drug-addled society, our obsessive imprisonment of all sorts of people and one person's decision to do no wrong. The story "My Chivalric Fiasco" is very funny for the most part and appears in at least one SF best-of compilation.


Irene Jennings said...

'Tenth of December' a short story collection by George Saunders, is, in a word, amazing! Very dark ironic humor, a unique and interesting style, and a collection of great short stories. I'm embarrassed that I have never heard of Mr. Saunders before, but I intend to rectify that mistake shortly, i'll be seeking out more of his work. I recommend very highly, with the one caveat that some of this material is pretty dark, so if you are not somehow who enjoys dark satire, than this may be a tough read. But for anyone else, what are you waiting for!

Irene (Air Evac)

Cath Brookes said...

Saunders is one of the best short story writers around. He can be very raunchy but his narrative is great and his imagination superb.
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