cover image Moderan


David R. Bunch. New York Review of Books, $16.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-68137-254-9

Pain forms the common denominator of the late Bunch’s 58 wrenching short stories, most originally published in minor 1960s science fiction magazines and first collected in 1971. A cyborg dystopia’s polluted planet, now totally covered in gray plastic, houses doomed humans and relatively few “new-metal men” like the nameless narrator. The latter are transformed gruesomely over nine months into creatures of rage and hate, relentlessly blasting one another’s strongholds while thinking themselves secure in their metallic immortality. Bunch provides searing echoes of the Vietnam War and satiric jabs at “take-over” wives whom the narrator banishes to the “White Witch Valley,” all conveyed in overheated prose that suggests hippiedom’s worst excesses. In the most moving story, “The Miracle of the Flowers,” the narrator seems to experience pangs of conscience until a disturbing Nietzschean ending turns his yearning for softening human emotion into acrid bile. Jeff VanderMeer’s perceptive introduction, couched in Bunchian idiom, offers valuable insights. This is a steely view of a robot-dominated future. (Aug.)