cover image Skin Elegies

Skin Elegies

Lance Olsen. Dzanc, $16.95 trade paper (248p) ISBN 978-1-950539-35-2

Olsen (My Red Heaven) draws on stories of historical disasters for this impactful speculative vision of a totalitarian future. In the year 2072, a couple elects to each have their consciousness uploaded to the new Refugee Mind Upload Project. Most of the text unfurls in fragmented bits of data and shards of memories uploaded by others over the past century, beginning with the Soviet offensive on Germany in 1945 and also including the Challenger explosion, the Columbine shooting, the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and John Lennon’s murder. Intimate dramas play out against the backdrop of history: a scene of horrific domestic abuse takes place during Nixon’s resignation speech, an elderly woman pursues assisted suicide on 9/11 as her doctor watches the plane strike the second tower. Olsen’s fascinating experiment achieves heft by the accumulation of personal and collective loss, which makes the nightmarish coda feel eerily plausible. Together, the elegant and heartbreaking set pieces prompt deep reflection on the connections between minds and bodies, and on where both are ultimately headed. (Nov.)