Sanders is at his best when he leaves humor behind to tell stories with big ideas; fortunately, over half the stories here...

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DANCING IN DREAMTIME

A short story collection wrestling with modern isolation and dystopic futures, from an author also known for nonfiction essays about conservation and nature.

Sanders (Divine Animal, 2014, etc.) begins with “The Anatomy Lesson,” a horror story about transformation in a poorly defined academic setting. “The First Journey of Jason Moss” describes a nebbishy man's unlikely midlife blossoming into a world traveler and solver-of-everyone's-problems. “The Artist of Hunger” is about an artist's rebellion against (somewhat cartoonish) villainous corporate patrons and their manufactured culture of greed. “The Engineer of Beasts" is the first story explicitly set in Sanders' Enclosure universe, a dystopia of bubble cities sealed against Earth's pollution, more thoroughly explored in his 1985 novel Terrarium. Despite traces of a too-cute whimsy, Sanders hits his stride as he explores what happens when one of the Enclosure's "disneys" (an inspired coinage for artificial parks within the cities) goes haywire. Sanders invigorates the "domed cities" trope for the last 10 stories, which chronicle humanity's retreat into the Enclosure...and their subsequent need to escape their refuge and reconnect with their ruined natural world and with one another. In the far future of the setting, our species reaches other, less spoiled planets. The two best stories take place here: “The Audubon Effect,” in which a team of scientists puzzles through the impossible appearance of extinct avians; and the claustrophobic and creepy “The Land Where Songtrees Grow,” a rescue mission whose members are in risk of losing their own minds. “Travels in the Interior” is also strong, sharply examining both celebrity culture and colonization/exploitation through two brothers whose expeditions on alien planets are televised.

Sanders is at his best when he leaves humor behind to tell stories with big ideas; fortunately, over half the stories here do so, despite a shaky start.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-253-02251-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Indiana Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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