Monday, October 16, 2017

Dystopia cornucopia

Usually being late to the party, reading or otherwise, I'm not surprised to be into dystopian fiction long after the genre's popularity wave has likely crested. This past weekend, I chomped through Francisco X. Stork's latest, Disappeared, and Emmy Laybourne's Monument 14. The former, a serendipitous library find prompted by a past winner from the same author (e.g., Marcelo in the Real World); the latter; a breathless eighth-grader's recommendation.

Stork's fiction hews close to realism, tracking the challenges of two siblings in northwestern Mexico: a brother being tempted into the drug trade and his sister, a tenacious journalist, investigating her best friend's disappearance. Their stories generally unfold by the numbers, nonetheless revealing a corrupt society unraveling even as people with integrity struggle still to do the right thing.

Laybourne travels a more sensational route: a weather apocalypse triggering numerous catastrophic dominoes. Despite this sky-is-falling scenario, the book's perspective proves intimate, focusing on a small band of teens, tweens, and younger kids marooned in their town's big-box store. I expected the story to devolve into Lord of the Flies in Walmart, but it sprang different surprises.

Most recently, I've begun The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, which a friend of a friend touted while we watched playoff baseball. This one is aimed at adults -- its spartan, brutal style and subject matter for older readers. As with the previous titles, the world we know has ended. (It's not yet clear why.) I'm in the company of two perhaps paranoid survivors with access to a junky prop plane. Where we'll go, I have little idea.

Writing this slice, however, I have a better sense of my motivation for this three-book genre streak. Dystopian dysfunction mirrors a school year herky-jerkying its way through October's annual minefield.


  1. My 6th graders are just becoming familiar with dystopian literature. I have great fun introducing them to new books and talking about all the ways the world can go wrong.

  2. While I might not dabble in your dystopian soup, I will make a meal of your three book genre streak.