Review: This Shape We’re In

For part two of my pre-readercon reading list it’s second guest of honor, Jonathan Lethem’s novella This Shape We’re In.  To be upfront about my review, I am biased when it comes to Lethem.  He’s probably my favorite modern author, in large part because his two primary influences, Philip K. Dick and Steve Gerber are the same writers I grew up devouring.  He’s also the author of my favorite book of the last decade, Motherless Brooklyn.

So, with that little disclaimer out of the way, on to the review.  This Shape We’re In is a very odd and incredibly tightly written story.  It focuses on two characters searching for one of their sons who has run away to join a cult, as well as the purpose of their lives, oh and lest I forget the purpose of their environment as well.  The environment in question, the shape, is a body that may or may not be human.  It could also be a generational ship, a fallout shelter, or possibly a trojan horse.

The brilliance of the story comes from the craft on display.  For nearly any other writer a story this ambitious would form a novel.  For Lethem, the tale encompases a total of 55 pages and feels like it’s exactly the length it ought to be.  This is world building of the first order, there is no extraneous exposition (or really any exposition at all for that matter), yet the environment feels fully realized.

This story (if you can still find a copy) makes a great introduction to Lethem’s work, very highly recommended.

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