To say that The Last Catastrophe is a dystopic take on humanity's final hour is to miss the humor in these pages, as well as the tenderness in Allegra Hyde's gaze. She is looking upon all of us—even those with the greatest culpability—as if she is sad to lose us and for us to lose ourselves. This places her squarely in the lineage of writers like George Saunders, as does the collection's strip malls, experimental surgeries to consign youth, data points that “extrapolate likely outcomes,” zombie humans, humans with “eyes blank as chicken broth,” bee extinctions, white lies, immigrant detention centers, DNA market, and the discomfortingly familiar algorithm that knows what you want before you even ask, then drops it at your door by drone (“Praise be, we paid”). In these short stories, “America unfurls in every direction,” and we stand helpless before capitalism's gaping maw. Hyde approaches her subjects with a naturalist view, reflecting back our foolish instinct to flex our power against nature, how it will kill us or conscript us to an unrecognizable existence. In these pages, we follow a caravan of motorhomes that are over a millennium swallowed into the earth's core, embark on a doomed mission to save the last remaining moose, join a woman at a center for digital disorders (wondering, all the while, what ours might be), and remain alert to the predatory animals that are lurking. The people in these stories are lonely, mystified by […]
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