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The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil Paperback – September 6, 2005
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Welcome to Inner Horner, a nation so small it can only accommodate one citizen at a time. The other six citizens must wait their turns in the Short-Term Residency Zone of the surrounding country of Outer Horner. It's a long-standing arrangement between the fantastical, not-exactly-human citizens of the two countries. But when Inner Horner suddenly shrinks, forcing three-quarters of the citizen then in residence over the border into Outer Horner territory, the Outer Hornerites declare an Invasion In Progress--having fallen under the spell of the power-hungry and demagogic Phil.
So begins The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil. Fueled by Saunders's unrivaled wit, outlandish imagination, and incisive political sensibility, here is a deeply strange yet strangely familiar fable of power and impotence, justice and injustice--an Animal Farm for our times.
"An astoundingly tuned voice--graceful, dark, authentic, and funny--telling just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times."
"Mr. Saunders writes like the illegitimate offspring of Nathanael West and Kurt Vonnegut. [His] satiric vision of America is dark and demented; it is also ferocious and very funny."
--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"A master of distilling the disorders of our time into fiction."
Want to know the story behind the story of award-winning author George Saunders's new novella, The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil? Then read "Why I Wrote Phil," an exclusive essay from Saunders concerning the genesis of his new work, which has been praised as possessing "an absurdist wit as playful as Monty Python's and a vision as dark as Samuel Beckett's."
Read George Saunders's Essay, "Why I Wrote Phil"
More from George Saunders
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From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Try an experiment: read "Phil" and then watch the evening news - on any channel - and see if you don't experience certain physical effects stemming from the concoction: a)the shivers at the terrifying similarities of good satire & reality, and b) nausea at the inanity currently passing itself off as enlightened public discourse.
Saunders has put together a solid if occasionally superficial (for me, a requirement of a well-constructed allegory) critique of what happens when a great society goes about - seemingly at will - losing its grip on what makes it authentically great. I found that one of the most frightening aspects of this little satire was that the degraded state of the current public rhetoric - catchphrases wrapped in soundbytes oozing with platitudes - seems to have made writing "Phil" entirely too easy for Saunders. The book is easy to read and yet provides a valuable check for how we frame our remarks about what is wrong - or right - with our culture.
In short, if you think you might enjoy an entree cooked by Mark Twain and then spiced by Karel Capek and finally smothered in some nonsensical mystery sauce that Dr. Seuss whipped up, then what George Saunders is serving up in "Phil" just may be for you.
Recommended to readers anywhere where folks need to rediscover how beneficial it is to be able to laugh at yourself.
Unfortunately, for me at least, this book missed the mark. The characters acted as humans but had metallic bodies, one of whom, has a problem with his brain continually falling off his body. How he survives without a brain is never explained, but that is part of science fiction, it does not have to make sense.
The story is just so-so. Much of it nonsensical. How can a country that is so small that it can only hold one citizen at a time be large enough to have an apple tree and a stream? And how can a man drain a stream and hold it in his see-through stomach? YUK! Again, this is the type of liberties one can take with science fiction. Reality goes out the window and nothing has to make sense or be logical.
The greatest flaw of the book is Saunders’ political views are showing through too much. Many authors conceal a political message in their prose, but this book puts the message on a huge well-lit board. Come on George, be a little more subtle.
The story deals with narrow-minded politicians, unnecessary border security, prejudice against foreigners, the inadequacy of a democracy, and a man taking over the leadership of a country when the one in charge is incapable of running the country. Who was he slamming, Bush? Reagan?
I normally love Saunders, but this one missed the mark. Sorry, George.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Why does Phil want to be Donald Trump? A good read for liberals, maybe not so much if you are a right wing evangelical.Published 4 months ago by Terence Kennedy
Phil is a terrifying creature. He is bitter, vindictive, opportunistic, petty and his brain regularly falls out, which leads to some of his more outlandish moments and thankfully,... Read morePublished 4 months ago by MattS | Gas Station Burrito
Such an interesting book. Really makes you think about capitalism and all that it stands for. Once again, George Saunders rocks my socks offPublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
I doubt there is anyone else right now who writes like Saunders. This book absolutely overflows with his ripe imagination, with descriptions that almost never fail to surprise and... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Mr. Richard K. Weems
It was strange as well as a bit alarming, yet it did make me think about how our society seems to over react in given situations.Published 16 months ago by L. Wendel