A collection of six stories and a novella, CIVILWARLAND IN BAD DECLINE introduces an astonishing new voice in American fiction.
George Saunders' vision of America's near future is as black and funny as you can get.
He takes us on a trip to the shopping malls and theme parks and enviromental hazards that lie just around the chronological corner, introducing us to gang of misfits and losers struggling to survive in an increasingly haywire world.
Saunders' dialogue is superb, his plots marvellously bizarre: he is an original and uniquely American voice destined to become one of the most important literary discoveries of his generation.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 192 pages
- Publisher: Vintage Publishing
- Publication Date: 06/02/1997
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780099595816
Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.
Review by wunderkind
This is a collection of short stories that could be more accurately called <i>Humanity in Bad Decline</i>. Holy cow, these were the most depressing funny stories I've ever read. The vision of humanity, set in what's either the semi-post-apocalyptic near future or a sort of alternate present, is so negative it's almost off-putting. Saunders describes a place where hedonistic consumerism has run rampant and only the strong or psychotic survive while the decent and weak are used and abused. They're well-written and entertaining, but jeez...Where did all of that disgust come from? Or am I just naive?
Review by GingerbreadMan
Saunders take on America is not quite like any other I've met. Perhaps playwright Richard Dresser is the closest relative of his I know, but Saunders tend to take it much further.This collection of short stories is set in an America in a close future, where nothing of any real worth is produced anymore. It's a nation in free falling, where scamming for an easy buck, selling useless products, kicking whomever you need to kick on to climb another pathetic step on your career ladder, and clinging to empty phrases of patriotism or self-improvement (noone can write a dialogue consisting entirely of "inspriring" clichés like Saunders) are all that remains. It's typical that almost all these stories are set in tacky, artificial theme parks, trying to profit on the nation's great history. But not succeeding: the paint is flaking, the machinery is breaking down and more often than not there are hungry slums outside the gates. In the long novella "Bounty", which makes up about half the book, dystopia is in full effect in an America where government has broken down, slavery is reinstituted and local fascist tyrants are calling the shots.Saunders paints a very grotesque, deeply cynical world - funny, yes, but fun of a very unsettling dark variety. But this is not a cynical book. For his main characters are almost without exception good, honest people. Gentle, awkward men and women without pointy elbows, who are just trying to play by the rules and be decent at the same time. But, having to navigate within a system of inhumanity, they are all bound to fail miserably. In it's own way, this is often a very moving, even heart-breaking book. But don't expect a gentle ride.
Review by HadriantheBlind
These are the funniest future hellscapes I've ever read. I likely scared the neighbors with my crazed laughter about the brothel in the former Safeway and the pickled fetus exhibition. And the ghost swearing in Latin. And the slaveowner saying he is a kind and civilized man. But I digress.<br/><br/>These stories, when taken together, revolve around the same hyperkinetic image of a future America, dreaming of eternal happiness while sloughing in mud, rich, violent and yet so fawningly humble, religious and whorish, fake and imitation, damning the pathetic and praising the rich.<br/><br/>Yet even where Saunders writes about these most pathetic and wormlike of souls, torturing them in the most hilarious outlandish ways, he shifts the tone and leaves us with the most irrational feeling of sensitivity or hope.<br/><br/>With the release of Saunder's newest collection of short stories, he has been readily proclaimed as the next David Foster Wallace. I must disagree. D.F.W. laid his own path, and Saunders took another. You do not need to take one over the other, instead go for both.
Review by aliceunderskies
My current entry for my annual litmus test to evaluate whether or not I've transformed into a Short Story Reader. This one didn't convert me, and failed to be one of the rare exceptions of the genre that excites. <br/><br/>Loved: the surreality of the settings, the dreamy decay of it all. Hated: the unexplored, unrelented darkness of the plots. Shock value much? It all left me cold with a veneer of active dislike; I don't think there was a single story that engaged me beyond the shallow level of dark fascination. Neutral: the quality of writing itself. I didn't notice it ever being great or even remarkable. Why the slavish adoration, World? I don't get it.
Review by kszym
Ventured a little too far into absurdity for my taste. At times, I could feel the stories reaching toward genuine sentiment, but they never quite made it.