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Ten stories by a talented Australian: vividly imagined, cleanly written futurist fables that, despite faint echoes of Donald Barthelme and Ian McEwan, really are most akin to the work of such darkly progressive, sociologically-oriented science fiction writers as Harlan Ellison, Jack Dann, and Christopher Priest. Like them, Carey only occasionally focuses hard on a fantastical premise--a nightmare striptease that goes far beyond clothes ("Peeling"), a world in which unloved places and people dematerialize ("Do You Love Me?"); and these rather derivative notions are given nicely personalized, crisply matter-of-fact treatment. ("Exotic Pleasures," on the other hand--a fairy-tale-ish parable about a beautiful/ dangerous bird that is pure pleasure to stroke--belabors its obvious themes.) The real interest here comes instead with Carey's more overtly socio-political constructions, especially those that deal with revolutionary developments in eye-of-the-be-holder perceptions: in the slightly overextended "The Chance," a man struggles to prevent his beautiful lover from seeking an ugly, proletarian body in the genetic lottery; in the title story, a seedy house-ful of "Fat Men Against the Revolution" (fat is now, unfairly, synonymous with reactionary) becomes a microcosm of dog-eat-dog politics; in "The Puzzling Nature of Blue," a businessman-poet who has been responsible for unleashing a defective drug on a colonial island society (it turns the hands blue) winds up on the island himself. . . with fatally un-blue hands. And two of the best stories depend hardly at all on fantasy: "American Dreams"--in which a terribly simple premise (a man puts up a wall around his property and secretly builds therein a perfect model of his change-threatened town) is given a delicately moving texture; and "War Crimes"--the confessions of an "Andy Warhol of business" who coolly kills in his efforts to make a frozen-foods company more efficient. Carey does tend to overstate his points. His usually brisk prose sometimes lapses into precious self-consciousness. And apparent preoccupations (with adolescent sexuality, with the color blue) further constrict a generally claustrophobic, narrow atmosphere. But Carey has both a true imagination and an effective voice--and this intriguing collection indicates that there may be better, more substantial fiction to come.
Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1980
ISBN: 0679743324
Page count: 236pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1980


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