Liberation Day by George Saunders [6/10]

The nine short stories in “Liberation Day” are a mix of immersive character studies and boundary-stretching brutal sci-fi concepts unwound for the reader. The title story, for example, posits slaves shackled and semi-tortured to vocalise scripts for an ultra-rich family, while in “Ghoul,” a hellish amusement park is maintained by brainwashed slaves. The heroes in such stories grapple with survival and purpose, parodies of the real world. “The Mom of Bold Action” puts us in the head of a scatty mother trying to write mini fables, who swings into Trumpian action when her son is mildly assaulted and her husband retaliates. This story is a virtuoso turn, a frenetic unreliable-narrator rant that reveals much about our current world. The author is a master of prose, control, and hidden depths, but I found most of the protagonists impressive rather than moving, puppets twirling upon the master’s command, so I suggest you sample Liberation Day before taking the plunge. If it amazes you, you are a George Saunders fan; if it merely evokes admiration, this collection might fall a tad flat.

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