It’s easy to appreciate George Saunders creativity. The stories that I’ve read by him are always somewhat fantastic and otherworldly. Usually, he has a point to make as well. In “Escape from Spiderhead” we find a narrator named Jeff who is trapped in some kind of complex where they experiment on people in the name of science. Jeff was lucky in that his mother was able to raise enough money for him to be moved out of prison and into this facility to serve his sentence.
The story has a scifi feel to it as drugs are administered to the people/inmates forcing them to feel and act in certain ways. It’s an interesting idea that resonates, but sometimes Saunders social commentary outshines his fiction. Is it a good story or a worthy statement? What’s the difference between a short story that is a gripping narrative and one that is a vehicle for an idea? “Escape from Spiderhead” is a compelling story that stands out both in it’s creative vision and social statement. Some of Saunders other stories do not work as well.
One area I’m ambivalent about is the dialogue in this story. It’s like super clear what he’s doing, and like the character Jeff may talk that way, but a lot of Saunders characters talk the same. They get super miffed about stuff. Things get out of whack and they say, that’s out of whack, and it’s making me really upset.
For this story, look at the larger point Saunders is making and the creative risks he takes in telling it. Draw your own conclusions about the dialogue.