Tenth of December by George Saunders

Tenth of December was an unexpected gem. I was totally unfamiliar with George Saunders before reading a Guardian list of top ten books about the apocalypse. The review by Michelle Tea promised:

“If you love Black Mirror, this collection is for you. Saunders’ grip on how today’s technological folly may lead to tomorrow’s grotesque inhumanity is both hilarious and completely disturbing. Beware of these stories; their combination of casual future horror and doddering human vulnerability will maim your heart.”

I reserved a library copy on the strength of such praise, and was not disappointed. At 250 pages long, Tenth of December isn’t a long read, but it is an immensely satisfying one that tackles some big questions about what it is to be human.

My particular favourites were “Victory Lap”, about two very different teenagers in an emergency situation, “Escape from Spiderhead”, in which criminals are subjected to rigorous new drugs testing, “The Semplica Girl Diaries”, set in a future where girls from Third World countries are brought to America as decorative lawn ornaments, and the titular “Tenth of December” – a touching tale about a boy with a big imagination, and a chance encounter with an old man approaching the end of his life.

I’ll definitely be reading more by Saunders in future, and in particular am looking forward to his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo.

[Read from 24-25 March 2017]

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