Originally published in the 1960s and '70s, Bunch’s dystopian science-fiction stories, set in his signature realm of Moderan—a futuristic Earth covered in plastic and controlled by warring cyborg warlords—are available in one volume for the first time in 47 years.
While genre historians (and few others) will remember Bunch from his inclusion in Harlan Ellison’s revolutionary 1967 anthology Dangerous Visions, this collection of Moderan stories confirms that Bunch was a major—albeit obscure—talent in the New Wave science-fiction movement. Powered by lyrical prose and a deeply philosophical tone, many of the stories feature the character of Stronghold #10, the leader of one of the many perpetually warring districts on the planet. A virtually immortal metal man with few areas of vulnerable “flesh-strips,” Stronghold #10 struggles to come to grips with his humanity in a “plasto-coated” world ravaged by toxic pollution where the mechanical populace is obsessed with war and hate. In “The Miracle of the Flowers,” Stronghold #10 attempts to understand a wandering metal preacher advocating love and pacifism. “Incident in Moderan” exemplifies the callousness of Bunch’s post-humanity. During a brief lull between wars, Stronghold #10 is far more concerned with launching his new weapons than with the death of one of his mortal subjects (a “little flesh-bum”). The only problem with this collection is the unevenness a reader will feel when consuming it straight through. There is a feeling of disconnectedness in some sequences in which the tales are unrelated and some repetition among the stories. That lack of fluidity notwithstanding, this collection gives Bunch’s cybernetic vision of the future new life for a new generation of science-fiction readers. Almost a half-century after these stories were originally released, the thematic power of Bunch’s vision still resonates, the narrative equivalent of a new-metal alloy punch to the gut.
A disturbing, stark, and deeply thought-provoking collection of stories chronicling humankind’s demise into heartless automatons.