cover image Time Famine

Time Famine

Lance Olsen. Permeable Press, $12.95 (328pp) ISBN 978-1-882633-15-9

Olsen (Tonguing the Zeitgeist) opens his new novel with a ""partially chernobylized"" nuclear reactor at BelsenLand, one of Klub Med's several new theme parks based on historical instances of human atrocities. Although the plot proceeds like most space operas and the characters are less than riveting, the extraordinary inventiveness of the language and the savage satire keeps the pages turning. The strength is in the details. ATMs of the near future, for example, must be approached with extreme caution since they are armed with machine guns. You don't ""want to make any gestures that might be misinterpreted by the machine."" And illicit flea markets with ""blackmarket vegetables and cash"" for sale are brutally dispersed by hired police enforcing the ""Lawful Assembly Decree."" America is now a ""governcorp"" whose sole purpose seems to be keeping people entertained and diverted from what is really happening by invoking the ""National Security Profit Margins Amendment."" Spliced into this dystopic tale is a retelling of the Donner Party's fate in which their struggle to survive becomes a dark metaphor for American history. Inevitably, comparisons will be made to the work of Thomas Pynchon and Philip K. Dick, but Olsen hasn't quite achieved the fullness of these writers' styles. Still, there is every promise that he will in the future. (Sept.)