cover image Strange Labour

Strange Labour

Robert G. Penner. Radiant, $22 trade paper (220p) ISBN 978-1-989274-35-4

With this brilliant debut, Penner thoughtfully upends the tropes of postapocalyptic fiction. Miranda is working as a New York City accountant when all the world’s neurotypical adults are mysteriously compelled to abandon their lives and devote themselves to the creation of massive labyrinthine earthworks called “the diggings.” Only the neurodivergent are immune to the impulse, Miranda among them. Now traveling to Minnesota to find her parents, Miranda and ex-union organizer Dave, who has epilepsy, traverse a dystopian landscape marked not with violence but with frayed human relationships and abandoned children. Along the way, they encounter dementia nurses and educators struggling to adjust to the new world; an affluent, heartless Toledo commune; and the silent diggers themselves. Penner’s exquisite prose illumines a wild landscape, blurring the boundaries of the natural and industrial and finding beauty in the ruins of the world. With its focus on a neurodiverse and disabled cast, probing exploration of caregiving and its tensions, and depiction of the determination to find joy and meaningful work in the aftermath of disaster, Penner’s hopeful postapocalyptic vision pushes the subgenre forward. (Oct.)