cover image The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus

The Postutopian Adventures of Darger and Surplus

Michael Swanwick. Subterranean, $40 (200p) ISBN 978-1-59606-937-4

This entertaining volume collects Swanwick’s tales of his recurring roguish con artists (who previously appeared in the novel Chasing the Phoenix) and their exploits in a neo-Victorian, postapocalyptic future. Throughout, melancholy human Darger and passionate Surplus, a bioengineered humanoid canine, blithely get themselves into and out of predicaments with sanguine ease in a future in which most technological science has regressed, while the biological sciences have progressed in often terrifying ways. “We have created monstrosities to perform the duties that were once done by machines,” one character notes in the Hugo-winning “The Dog Said Bow-Wow.” Though this setting is fascinating, some readers will be disappointed when it recreates 19th- and 20th-century biases; sexism pervades “Tawny Peticoats,” and in “The Dog Said Bow-Wow” Darger poses as “an autistic” as part of a con. All but one of these stories, “There Was an Old Woman,” have been published in prior volumes. Though the characters’ cunning and charm will sufficiently endear new readers to them, the high price tag and previously published material mark this pleasant diversion as primarily a collector’s item for longtime fans. (Apr.)