Monday, February 4, 2013
Tenth of December: George Saunders' Vision of the Future
Some of the stories in Tenth of December remind me a little bit of of Kurt Vonnegut, pointing towards the absurd dilemmas of a technologically driven society. In "Escape From Spiderhead" a convict is a lab rat for a commercial pharmaceutical company that tests emotion enhancement drugs. "In The Sempica Girls Diary" a middle class father trying to make his children happy buys into a dehumanizing practice that victimizes illegal immigrants. And in "My Chivalrous Fiasco" an employee of a Medieval themed entertainment facility is bribed to silence by way of a mind-enhancing "upgrade" to a Pacing Guard position in the live and interactive Medieval tech show.
There wasn't a single story in this collection that I didn't simply devour. In spite of the frustrating and often tragic events, the characters are each so well-intentioned, so hopeful and so full of heart that it's hard to come out of reading even the most pessimistic of these stories without coming out at the end of it with a sense of optimism for the future and elation for the general good heartedness of people. In "Tenth of December," the collection's title story, a cancer patient resolves on committing suicide, but ends up instead involved in a rescue situation. In "The Semplica Girls Diaries" the middel aged disgruntled father desiring status and money throws it all away without a blink to protect his children. In "Escape from Spiderhead" it's the life-sentence convict who is able to make the most moral and the most selfless act.
These beautiful stories each glow with Saunder's imagination, his vision of a world ruled by an insensitive money-driven society tempered by the tender and altruistic instincts of its most ordinary citizens. Every story leaves us with the sense that human nature itself has been redeemed, its thoughtless ambition in the end always overwhelmed by the simple need to connect to our loved ones, and to do what's best for others, in spite of ourselves.