CivilWarLand in Bad Decline

Book Review:

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is the second of Saunders works that I’ve read, and I must say he’s yet to disappoint. CivilWarLand in Bad Decline consists of six short stories and a novella to close out. Though it was his first book, his writing style shines and shows growth in later novels.

The six short stories all feature similar tones and themes, presented with satirical humor on modern culture. The six stories titled, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, Isabelle, The Wavemaker Falters, The 400-Pound CEO, Offloading for Mrs. Schwartz, and Downtrodden Mary’s Failed Campaign of Terror. The eponymous story, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, describes a theme park in financial ruin amid a group of teenage hoodlums. Haunting the fake interactive museum are ghosts of Civil War-era people including a mentally disturbed war veteran. Stories feature characters complaining about their pathetic lives, unfortunate murder, and a smidge of regret.

The novella, Bounty, is a sadistic (but fun) satire of Americana and its faults. Saunders paints a grim reality of a near-future (or present) with murderous CEO’s, moral degradation, and a world run by those much more fortunate and self-absorbed rule. Prophesying a future society in which the meek mistreat one another and supersede our self-important beliefs to ignore our common morality. By creating this fictional world, Saunders is able to take readers away from the creeping dread of our world and explore it through a unique cast of eccentric and tarnished characters.

I’ve seen comparisons of Saunders to the likes of Kurt Vonnegut and David Foster Wallace which I see similarities. I’ve always enjoyed authors able to toe the line with satire and the everyday struggle of readers. Saunders re-examines the past to foreshadow the current future, illuminating that we all must keep open minds and hearts to coexist. His style is quite unique, hilarious at times and the next sentence can leave you uncomfortable because it resembles your everyday life.

A Favorite Quote:
“Possessing perfect knowledge I hover above him as he hacks me to bits. I see his rough childhood. I see his mother doing something horrid to him with a broomstick. I see the hate in his heart and the people he had yet to kill before pneumonia gets him at eighty-three. I see the dead kid’s mom unable to sleep, pounding her fists against her face in grief at the moment I was burying her son’s hand. I see the pain I’ve caused. I see the man I could have been, and the man I was, and then everything is bright and new and keen with love and I sweep through Sam’s body, trying to change him, trying so hard, and feeling only hate and hate, solid as stone.”

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