I may be late coming to George Saunders’ writing, but I’m glad to have come across it. I’ve heard/read a lot of people mentioning him, and felt like I needed to read something by him. The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil is unlike anything I’ve read before. In some ways it seems like part China Miéville mashed with Aesop’s Fables, as we enter a world made of strange little figures that are part machine, part plant, but full of humanity.
The novella begins, “It’s one thing to be a small country, but the country of Inner Horner was so small only one Inner Hornerite at a time could fit inside, and the other six Inner Hornerites had to wait their turns to live in their own country while standing very timidly in the surrounding country of Outer Horner.”
What follows is a story of Phil, an Outer Hornerite who hates Inner Hornerites and through fear, intimidation, and propaganda begins his assault on those from the tiny nation. It’s wonderfully imaginative, and great satire. The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil will stay with you long after having read it.