cover image The Relive Box

The Relive Box

T.C. Boyle. Ecco, $25.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-267339-8

Characteristic elements of Boyle’s fiction—ecology, technology, human nature, obsession, men and women disconnecting, the ordinary intermingled with the bizarre—are evident throughout his latest collection. The title story centers on a home entertainment console that enables users to relive moments from their past. A father, arguing with his 15-year-old daughter who wants more time at the “relive box,” tells her to do her homework and focus on the present, even as he is about to lose his job because he cannot stop reliving younger, more promising, days. “Are We Not Men?” depicts a future in which people custom-design children and pets through transgenic reproduction. Trouble begins when a maraschino-colored pit bull attacks a micropig. In “You Don’t Miss Your Water (’Til the Well Runs Dry),” a neighbor siphons off a California homeowner’s water during a drought, then, when the drought worsens, asks the homeowner to contribute money for a rain dancer. The creator of the titular dish in “The Five-Pound Burrito” experiences both success and hallucinations. In “She’s the Bomb,” a non-graduating college senior is desperate to delay the graduation ceremony, and in “Warrior Jesus” a cook channels his anger into disturbing comic-book superhero episodes. Settings for the 12 stories range from the Arctic to Argentina, protagonists from teenager to octogenarian. Boyle makes the incredible credible through detail, and his narrative voices convincing through rhythm and attitude. He can be funny, touching, or both, as when his characters face aging with characteristically fervent resistance. (Oct.)