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New Yorker Fiction Review #169: "Are We Not Men?" by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Review of a story from the Nov. 7, 2016 issue of The New Yorker...

Okay, it's official: A T.C. Boyle New Yorker story has, for the first time, failed to impress me.

Lot's of TCB's stories take place in a warped or twisted near-future based on some aspect of the current trajectory of human society, or else completely fantastical. This story takes its plot and surroundings from the idea of "genetic engineering" and how it could be used and mis-used. TCB creates an odd, but not-too-out-of-the-realm-of-possibility future in which we've used genetic engineering to design "wild" and domesticated animals, even give our own children certain desired attributes.

With these kinds of stories, the danger always is that the author spends too much time explaining the "rules" and outlines of the fictional world instead of focusing on the characters and the story. Usually TCB is pretty good about this. Not in this case, however, and the story comes off sounding more like bad paper-back science fiction crossed with a somewhat intriguing domestic humor/drama. The story gets a little more engaging toward the end, but by the time it does, I was already half asleep and just pushing to get through it.

I've read much better from ole T.C. and hope to do so again soon.


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