FICTION

They

McNally Editions Feb. 2022. 128p. ISBN 9781946022288. pap. $18. F
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This stunningly effective dystopian nightmare from 1977 follows a nameless, ungendered protagonist (or multiple protagonists, it isn’t clear) as they socialize and shelter with a succession of creative chosen families—artists, writers, musicians, craftspeople—while all around them civilization is being gradually dismantled by an ambiguously menacing horde of Them. “I remembered how they began. A parody for the newspapers,” but now their ranks have swollen to millions. Neither zombies nor Morlocks, they go sluggishly from place to place, “relieving their apathy with small acts of vandalism,” burning books, art, and the occasional person who refuses to conform to their stultifying, inarticulate new norm. That this desultory descent to an indeterminate dark age is played out against the sparkling shorelines, verdant fields, and rose gardens of a vividly depicted English countryside only adds to the uncanny dread aroused whenever They appear, like clouds blotting out the sun.
VERDICT Could there be a more fitting moment for the revival of Dick’s uneasy little masterpiece than our own era of isolation, fractious culture wars, widening intolerance, and environmental decline?
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