The prolific Boyle provides high entertainment in his latest story collection.
With novels that are all over the map in subject matter as well as quality, Boyle has proven hit (The Road to Wellville, 1993; San Miguel, 2012) and miss (The Terranauts, 2016). His batting average is higher in this collection, in which stories about global warming, cybertechnology, and genetic engineering show him addressing not only the first part of the 21st century, but whatever future it may anticipate. The title story, which has already been anthologized in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015, imagines our culture's next step in technological self-absorption: a device that allows people to revisit any part of their past history. For many, the Relive Box's utility begins as personalized pornography, but users find it so addictive that they’re soon revisiting, for hours on end, pretty much any moment that allows them to escape the present. Narrating the story is a divorced father of a 15-year-old girl. He wants to limit her time on the device (where she turns back to a time when her family was intact), but mainly he wants to use it himself, to get lost in the box, “pinned here in this chair like an exhibit in a museum, blind to anything but the past, my past and nobody else’s, not hers or her mother’s, or the country’s or the world’s, but just mine.” Many of the stories have narrators with blinders on, whether it’s a mathematician convinced he’s on the verge of a prizewinning breakthrough as his household suffers a plague of ants (“The Argentine Ant”), a cartoonist wreaking revenge on his girlfriend through the creation of “Warrior Jesus,” or a “high midlist” novelist who had “written about death to the point of obsession” but now finds it hitting a little too close to home (“Subtract One Death”).
Fans and new readers alike will appreciate Boyle's droll humor, eye for detail, and seemingly inexhaustible imagination.