By David Agranoff
June 24th, 2013
Since the outspoken author series started I have looked forward to this book. John Shirley is my favorite author, and he is certainly outspoken. This format makes for a cool little book that could serve as a great introduction not only to the work of, but the man as well. This book contains a novella called “A State of Imprisonment,” two essays called “New Taboos,” and “Why we need forty years of hell.” and it ends as all books in this series do with a interview with the author.
“State of Imprisonment,” is about a dystopian near future where the State of Arizona is turned into a state wide private prison for debtors. It is excellent novella that scratches the surface of the issues Shirley wanted to bring up but I could have read a whole novel on the topic. There is a wonderful moment of suspense towards the end, but really it is the state of privately run prisons and abuse of power that gets explored here.
For any one who reads Shirley’s blog or facebook posts you know he has a tendency to write excellent posts reflecting on the world. The essays are highlights of this collection and makes me think the world could use a full collection of Shirley’s non fiction musing. The essay New Taboos is an important exploration of the idea that our society lacks some important taboos. He does it with a bit more style but the author suggests polluting the world, and stealing from the people should be as taboo as shitting in public.
One of my favorite concepts brought up in the book comes in the second essay when Shirley ponders the idea that we might be evolving past empathy because of our massively expanding over population. The interview of course does a wonderful job introducing John Shirley, but the whole book does.
Check it out, it is a fantastic entry in this important series, but you should read all of them.