Elizabeth Tan. Unnamed (PGW, dist.), $17 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-944700-57-7
Tan knits subtle critique of a hypercommodified, networked world into her debut, an inventive linked short story collection. In “Retcon,” Jules Valentine’s small role in an experimental film shot in Perth, Australia, sets in motion a series of mysteries that build toward the uncovering of an insidious viral marketing campaign for Seed tablets and phones. Her image from the film as the “falling girl” becomes a hollow symbol of edgy individuality around Australia in “This Page Has Been Left Blank Intentionally.” In “Good Birds Don’t Fly Away,” young Peter Pushkin searches for his missing piano teacher, who was driven to a breakdown through the marketing campaign’s prank calls. Tim voices the automated tech support in “T” and gains a rabid following in “U (or, That Extra Little Something).” Other connected characters correspond with spambots (“Congratulations You May Have Already Won”), get cornea transplants (“Light”), and write anime fan fiction (“Luxury Replicants”). The stories slowly reveal their connection to Seed, but mostly overlap through oblique details that reward the reader’s attention, such as a cat’s red collar or the imagined unisex clothing brand Ampersand. A particularly poignant thread tracks the accidental death of Jules’s best friend through the history of a five-cent coin and a convenience store meat pie. The disorienting effect of accreting, repeating details and unanswered questions makes the final cohesion of Tan’s only slightly fantastical Perth even more delicious. Tan’s careful layering and nuanced craft will gain a strong following among fans of experimental narratives. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/12/2018
Release date: 04/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-5436-2588-2
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