Friday, May 18, 2007

A Dystopia and-a-Half

kw: book reviews, future fiction, fantasy

Jonathan Lethem writes across the boundaries claimed by numerous genres. How We Got Insipid contains two very different sorta-short stories (too short to be novellas—there goes another boundary).

"How We Got in Town and Out Again" chronicles a future sufficiently post-apocalyptic that the point-of-view character is illiterate, but folks are still looting the remains of civilization. The action: a tawdry "virtual reality" competition based on 1930s dance marathons. The surprise is, there are no surprises. People will still be banal once they get over the shock.

"The Insipid Profession of Jonathan Hornebom (Hommage Heinlein) recasts "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag", complete with evil birds, but they come via TV screens, not mirrors. An artist hires a PI to find out what he is doing when blacked out. Things rapidly turn occult. The happy ending (for the PI) is a surprise; Heinlein's story ended on a mildly unhappy note.

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