cover image Dancing in Dreamtime

Dancing in Dreamtime

Scott Russell Sanders. Indiana Univ, $19 trade paper (376p) ISBN 978-0-253-02251-6

For this Breakaway Book Club edition, essayist and novelist Sanders (Divine Animal) assembles revised versions of his contemplative and melancholy stories lamenting the degradation of Earth. Written in the 1980s, the prescient stories explore obesity, habitat loss, and extinction. In “Artist of Hunger,” the obese titular character paints food murals for companies that provide slenderizing operations. In the horror tale “Anatomy Lesson,” a mutant’s skeleton transforms a student. Several stories adapted for Sanders’s novel The Engineer of Beasts follow people living in domed cities after the Great Extinction, cut off from wilderness and building mechanical animals for circuses. “Dancing in Dreamtime” brings indigenous shamans into orbit to survey the damage and heal Earth with dance and song. Later stories visit humans on exoplanets discovering supposedly extinct birds and singing trees. Out of place in this collection is the standout fantasy “First Journey of Jason Moss,” a gentle story of discovery as Jason travels a present-day Earth. With so many cautionary stories of near-future doom and gloom, a few more hopeful insights would have lifted spirits. Agent: John W. Wright, John W. Wright Agency. (Aug.)