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Man V. Nature

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  1,102 ratings  ·  194 reviews
A refreshingly imaginative, daring debut collection of stories which illuminates with audacious wit the complexity of human behavior, as seen through the lens of the natural world

Told with perfect rhythm and unyielding brutality, these stories expose unsuspecting men and women to the realities of nature, the primal instincts of man, and the dark humor and heartbreak of our
Paperback, 258 pages
Published August 6th 2015 by Oneworld Publications (first published October 7th 2014)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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 ·  1,102 ratings  ·  194 reviews

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Haylea Huntsman
Jun 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After hearing the enthusiasm from our Harper-Collins rep about this book of short stories, I snatched up an ARC and began reading it that day. I highly recommend it for anyone who likes short stories. While each story is unique, they all explore human behavior and examine how we interact with each other. This book is entertaining, moving, and at times a bit scary, considering what it can make you realize about yourself and the people you encounter. While reading several of the stories, I found ...more
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An astonishing collection that demands discussion. Grab some fellow bookworms who enjoy short stories, who enjoy a surreal read that is also grounded in reality, and who don't mind getting a little creeped out and uncomfortable ... because you are going to want to talk and talk about these stories. More of my thoughts on this title can be found on my blog at A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall.
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a dark, crazy, sexy, uncomfortable, cool collection of stories! Reminded me of Bender, Link, and Millhauser, but at the same time, wholly original.
Feb 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So this is where we are. George Saunders brought us here, and the short story in its popular form now exists in this place where our realistic emotions clash up against fantasy-interruptive forces derived from social anxiety. Ok. Diane Cook has built a bunch of worlds here that exist in the same space as our own with slightly grotesque differences. These stories are paranoid, brutal, hypersexual, and funny --- sometimes all of those things at once. She sets up rules quickly -- there's a man who ...more
Annie Liontas
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I have been following Diane Cook since we published her in Salt Hill in 2012 as the winner of the Calvino Prize for her story “Somebody’s Baby,” wherein a man has been stealing village babies for years.

In full disclosure, I was lucky enough to do an interview with Diane for Fanzine and I asked her to send me some artifacts of her process. What she ultimately sent were photographs of beautiful landscapes and photographs of dead things. This is true. She sent me a picture of a severed deer hoof,
Doug H - On Hiatus
I enjoyed every story in this collection, but my favorite was 'Meteorologist Dave Santana'. It's the most character-driven, the least dependent on "out there" twists, the most comic, and the most satisfying to read in the sense that main character shows realistic growth by the end. Most of the other stories are also good, especially if you like your fiction on the dystopic and/or surreal side.
Joachim Stoop
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
4,5 stars
Daniel Grear
My favorite books as of late have been story collections that are bound by ideas rather than characters or plot. Man V. Nature is an example of this. Though Diane Cook's writing didn't move me or elicit pleasure in the way that contemporary fiction often does, these apocalyptic and subtly horrific thought experiments should be admired for their incredible originality and quiet brutality.
Sep 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads, fiction
The most visible thread in all the stories is how close to reality the humans act. Their selfishness, their rationalisations, their brutal nature in the face of all things. For that you could call this a peek into various psyches, but they're really all just our own.

It's a collection you'll want to keep picking up again, and putting down because you don't want to rush through it. You'll want to soak in each world and marvel at how horrible and desperate people are. And resilient they can be.
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Cook's theme here is, of course, man versus nature, but within this theme the stories themselves run the gamut from man literally versus nature to man versus human nature and everything in between! The interesting and unexpected thing about this collection is that most of the stories are set in post apocalyptic and even somewhat dystopian worlds. Worlds in which spouses are assigned rather than chosen and children are determined to be necessary or not. Worlds overcome by natural and unnatural ...more
3 parts Brothers Grimm + 2 parts Twlight zone + 1 part absurdist humour = 1 very happy reader.

I think this is the first time I've ever enjoyed every story in a short story collection. Highly recommended.
B. Rule
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.75/5, but I'll round up. Cook has a assured handle on her prose, which she applies to a welter of stories that at first seem disparate, but quickly resolve into a pattern. Most are surrealist, some are acerbically funny, and all keep at least one eye trained on the brutal competition at the heart of man and the heart of nature. She has a penchant for stories that read like blood-soaked fairy tales or fables, where the symbolism or subtext bubbles just below the surface. Some of the stories ...more
Emily Sorrells
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
omg. these stories are fabulous. a few duds, of course, but all worth it for that last story!
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved the bolts of familiarity and dread in these surreal/speculative stories. Reminded me of Stephen King, favorably.
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've never really been a fan of short stories because they've not had time to captivate me enough to like the story however Diane Cook's Man V. Nature was something else.
It was one hell of a ride with the most far out and fantastical stories. I really believe that each story could be a basis for some very different Hollywood movies. I think I enjoyed the last story the most because I actually craved more of it and didn't want it to end. The rest were great too but were the right length, I didn't
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m a big fan of alternate reality theories and endless existential possibilities they bring with them. I got the vibe of Black Mirror (TV show) from reading Man V. Nature and I was thoroughly lost in imaginations.

When we strip away all the social and cultural constructs, we are left with natural instincts. This book explores the world where such is the case. Get ready to be mentally disturbed and have your principles challenged cause you get to see what can happen when humans become
Reeka (BoundbyWords)
As seen on my blog:

BEST SHORT STORY COLLECTION I've read all year. I'm still fairly new to the genre of short story fiction, but I'm realizing that I've already become picky about the ones I'll agree to read. Man V. Nature has definitely set the standard for me. It was quirky, and dark, and completely raw with emotion. It was the first time, in perhaps EVER, that I welcomed ambiguity with such open arms. Short stories have a tendency to end on an annoyingly cryptic note, and for the life of
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Quick reflections on Diane Cook's MAN V. NATURE

1. DC has a wickedly sharp imagination. These stories are twisted and full of bent worlds and open oceans. Death is everywhere, natural. Dangers lurk in stairwells, underwater, in houses.

2. DC writes the sort of joke that I want to write: these dry, offhand remarks that are made even funnier by the macabre trappings of the stories.

3. A story like “It’s Coming” is gloriously violent without reveling in it. And its ending—its dismembering of
Timons Esaias
Dec 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hadn't read Diane Cook before (though I see that the title story of this collection is in the Best American Short Stories 2015), but I was loaned this collection by a neighbor. I'm glad I did read this, as it reminded me that there is a market for mixed surreal-speculative-absurd-fabulist stories. I've been sitting on some projects that didn't have a clear market...

Anyway, Cook's imagination is both wicked and engaging. I'm thinking of her works as a combination of Kafka and Jane Austen,
Nov 24, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a subpar collection. While a few of the stories had merit there were no blockbusters and several that just did not work.

Moving On is a story about a futuristic society in which people must be paired up in order to function in society. In this story a woman relates her experiences after her husband dies and she must go through the process of seeking a new mate.

The Way The End of Days Should be is narrated by a man, a successful man before whatever apocalyptic event has happened. He
Callum McLaughlin
Sep 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Definitely one of my favourite short story collections thus far, Cook has compiled a series of original stories that are each as interesting and enjoyable to read at face value as they are to examine further so we can draw parallels to our own world.

Some of my favourites include a story about a community who simply accept the strange old man who stalks their homes and snatches newborn babies; a story about a centre that prepares widows for remarriage; a story about a group of abandoned young
Eric Sasson
Sep 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deliciously dark, absurdist and fresh. Best collection I've read this year. The stories are gutsy and twisted, all taking place in this rather horrifying world which Cook wisely presents as matter-of-fact, thereby allowing her to explore our darker impulses and obsessions. If anything, this collection is about how people not only endure under bizarre, often cruel conditions, but how they remain essentially flawed throughout their ordeals. The "heroes" of these tales are not heroic because they ...more
Feb 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Strikingly original stories that are extremely engaging and fun to read, set in different versions of our world—some are dystopian, others are slightly distorted than ours. Wisdom finds its way despite the bleak circumstances. Diane Cook's prose is silky and smart, always bringing a fresh perspective on even the most mundane of things. To quote Sam Lipsyte, "Man V. Nature could also be called Diane Cook. V. The Challenges of Writing Fresh, Invigorating Fiction in Our Age. In the latter contest, ...more
Drew McCutchen
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed Diane Cook's collection, and will wait hungrily for her next writing. These stories cycle back and forth from reality to surrealism, blending humor and darkness masterfully. Cook does a great job of dislocating the reader and her characters from logical reasoning before layering the reality of our existences back onto them, until they scream with real world experience and problems. Between the raw and ridiculous, she finds the frequency of humanity. I was hooked, am hooked, ...more
Things don't go well in these stories. Most have sex and survival as their central themes, with a dash of the speculative thrown in. Many have unnamed first-person narrators of indeterminate sex. There's a lot of loneliness and disappointment, and occasionally full-blown flight from rampaging beasts. Try a story like "Marrying Up" up on for size--if it resonates, this is the book for you.
Catherine  Mustread
Listened to a story from this collection, "Flotsam," on Selected Shorts. An odd story about a woman who finds bizarre assorted items of children's wear in her laundry, possibly related to her sexual encounters. The print edition of this story can be found at this link:

The Selected Shorts podcast at this link:
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had high expectations for this book, based on the themes involved, and those expectations were surpassed. I liked every story in this book very much--and two of the stories will, I think, stay with me forever. Just a stellar work, with interesting-yet-accessible language, fascinating tableaux, and so many of the themes I love to explore in books, with death and humor right there together at the top.
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Man v. Nature is a unique collection of stories and I have to say I enjoyed each and every one. The first story “Moving On” absolutely crushed me. The way Cook blends the surreal with the everyday makes for some very entertaining stories, often dark and often brutally funny. And sometimes downright freaky (I’m looking at you "Somebody’s Baby"!) Man versus Mother nature is certainly a theme here, but it’s in the stories where man battles human nature that things really get interesting.
A Reader
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love short story collections and this is one of my favorites. Most of the stories are uniquely post-apocalyptic, a genre in which it's hard to find unique work. The final story, "The Not-Needed Forest" is stunning and invites the reader to re-read it immediately, over and over, which I did 5 times back to back. Truly an astonishing book.
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Wow. What a debut—a confident, terrifying, stunning book. It's kafkaesque not like The Trial, but like In The Penal Colony. It's like Cormac McCarthy, but set in a world more cruel. Like Hans Christian Andersen, but only the stuff that didn't make it to Disney.
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Diane Cook is the author of the novel, THE NEW WILDERNESS, and the story collection, MAN V. NATURE, which was a finalist for the Guardian First Book Award, the Believer Book Award, and the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. Her writing has appeared in Harper's, Tin House, Granta, and other publications, and her stories have been included in the anthologies Best American ...more
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