I've been wanting to read something by Saunders for a couple of years now, ever since interviewing him when he was planning a local appearance for an annual literary festival. Sadly, I had no idea who he was at the time and expect I made a bit of an ass of myself in the interview. It was during that phase of my life when I was steeped in SF/F literature and pretty much nothing else.
I found this browsing a local indy bookstore the other night and am glad I finally got around to picking up something by Saunders. The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil is a nice little satire about politics, nationalism, xenophobia and oppression. If you squint, you can see parallels between the narrative and recent current events, but really it's more of an archetype -- the kind of thing that could just as easily be set at any point in human history and in any nation.
The ending reminded me of one of those old Bugs Bunny cartoons when the pencil-wielding hand starts erasing and redrawing and rearranging Bugs and Daffy. Perhaps the moral is "There's always someone bigger than you."
Two things I loved:
"Life is full of beauty. Why fight? Why hate? Learn to Enjoy, and you will have no need to fight, and no desire to! Love life, walk in a circle, learn to enjoy coffee!"
"Then the massive hands lifted the new people up to a pair of giant indescribable lips and whispered,, in a fundamentally untranslatable Creator-language, something that meant approximately: THIS TIME, BE KIND TO ONE ANOTHER. REMEMBER: EACH OF YOU WANTS TO BE HAPPY. AND I WANT YOU TO. EACH OF YOU WANTS TO LIVE FREE FROM FEAR. AND I WANT YOU TO. EACH OF YOU ARE SECRETLY AFRAID YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. BUT YOU ARE, TRUST ME, YOU ARE."
That last bit is the kind of religious message I could see myself embracing.