cover image Liberation Day

Liberation Day

George Saunders. Random House, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-0-525-50959-2

Booker winner Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo) returns to the short form with a wide-ranging collection that alternates his familiar fun house of warped simulations with subtler dramas. In “Ghoul,” actors playing demons at an Inferno-esque attraction called “Maws of Hell” succumb to workplace rivalries under the watchful eye of their managers. “Love Letter,” set in a Trumpist dystopia where “loyalists” report dissenters for infractions, takes the form of a man’s cautionary letter to his defiant grandson. The title story imagines a sinister company whose employees, little more than programs, are forced to recreate Custer’s last stand. Other stories probe loss, regret, and hopefulness. “The Mom of Bold Action” follows a frustrated writer and housewife facing turmoil when her son is attacked by at least one of two identical old creeps. “Mother’s Day” explores the inner life of a once feisty elderly woman now living at a remove from the world after her daughter runs away from home. “Elliot Spencer” combines futurism and pathos as a mind-wiped counterprotester suddenly recovers his identity. Saunders’s four previous collections shook the earth a bit harder, but he continues to humanize those whom society has worn down to a nub. Despite the author’s shift to quieter character studies, there’s plenty to satisfy longtime devotees. (Oct.)