The Incredibles

When I summed up my year in reading at the end of 2012, I mentioned that it's often difficult to get my hands on a book in the same year that it's published, because I tend to get my material from the library. That means waiting lists. For some reason, though, my latest batch of books have all been recently released. It's such a giddy feeling to read something that's still getting hashed out at the online water cooler!

One of these books was George Saunders' latest short story collection, Tenth of December. Saunders is a highly-celebrated author, and he's been recommended to me from everyone I know who's read his work. This was my first exposure to his stories, which are very complex, despite their brevity. These are not happy stories, but they're wide ranging: A little boy who's unsure he can break his parents' strict house rules in order to assist the neighbor girl he witnesses getting kidnapped. A man sent to a shady scientific facility instead of prison reaching for one bit of redemption, even as his brain is infused with experimental chemicals. Even one as seemingly simple as a family going to pick out a puppy for adoption can plunge into some of the uncomfortable truths that course through our minds. I very much enjoyed it, and am looking forward to checking out more of Saunders' books.

The other book I just finished was Steven Amsterdam's What the Family Needed. It's one of those stories that grabbed me with an interesting premise - a typical family whose members develop superpowers. None of the family members really share their newfound gifts with anyone else. They don't take to the streets to fight crime. They don't hide from society, nor seek out fame.

Each chapter follows a single person coming to grips with their supernatural abilities, and Amsterdam takes the refreshing tack of having time pass as we read. That is to say, we spend the first chapter with a teenaged girl figuring out how to master her invisibility, and by the time the book gets around to her uncle, that teenaged girl is a grown woman. The book is an interesting exploration of how we might use superpowers to do some self-examination, and though I felt like it could have dug a little deeper, it's still a really intriguing read.

Tenth of December: B+
What the Family Needed: B


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