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An Agent of Utopia: Stories by Andy Duncan

An Agent of Utopia: Stories

by Andy Duncan

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Andy Duncan is one of the great unsung writers of fantasy and this collection of his selected short work readily showcases his best characteristics, including his distinctively Southern, unapologetically wry voice. That voice sets his work apart from the typical in the genre, as does the fact that so many of his stories are infused with Southern folklore and place-consciousness, giving them a realer-than-real tone that makes a reader of fantasy want to soak in the writer's world.

While one or two of the older stories here might be read in the current climate as over-soaked in masculine nostalgia, most are smart and culturally conscious. Duncan's penchant for literary reference ranges from the Antebellum-era folktales of enslaved peoples to Thomas More's "Utopia" -- as the title tale makes clear -- providing plenty of food for those who get the nods, as well as for those who don't mind googling as they read. While this isn't necessarily a book to fly through all in one sitting -- its range of moods and references rewards a slower sampling -- it is definitely deserves the proper time to appreciate. ( )
  beserene | Nov 11, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Wow, there's some serious literary range on display here. Stories shifting between Science fiction, fantasy, weird, absurdism, ghost stories, southern folklore, history, biography, and so on...along with loads of humor. Something like reading an entire season of X-Files episodes, but funnier.

In a few of the stories, the title one for example, I found the style somewhat incoherent, similar to free jazz....verbal fireworks which are perhaps an acquired taste. But for the most part, reading these stories was an engrossing and entertaining experience. I especially enjoyed Zora and the Zombie. Highly recommended. ( )
  vaniamk13 | Sep 30, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Andy Duncan was born in the South, and is intimately familiar with the tropes of Southern folklore as well as the people and their language. He uses these to good effect in his latest collection, which contains some of his most well-known stories, along with two new stories previously uncollected.

Whether he is discussing the meeting between heavyweight champ Jess Willard and Harry Houdini (The Pottawatomie Giant) or Zora Neale Hurston's trip to Haiti to learn about zombies (Zora and the Zombie), Duncan's writing puts you into the story. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award but has not won, but he has been awarded three World Fantasy Awards, and the Nebula for the last story in the collection, Close Encounters, a beautiful story about a man who was among the early claimers of having been visited by extraterrestrials, and how his life has changed, and may be poised to change again.

Duncan's prose is similar to that of Jeffrey Ford, Gene Wolfe, or early Jack Vance; if those three aren't recommendation enough to make you read this book, you'll be missing out on the work of one of the great modern fantasists. ( )
  tdashoff | Sep 17, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was an ER book. It's a collection of (i guess) fantasy short stories. I found them all incredibly dull. The only ones I really liked were the last two, and even they weren't really all that great. ( )
  yoyogod | Sep 5, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I enjoyed Andy Duncan's recent collection of short stories, "An Agent of Utopia" a great deal. The characters - many taken from the real world - were filled with human frailties and strengths. The complexity of his characters propelled the stories along and provided interesting twists and turns as the stories unfolded. I especially enjoyed the title story, Zora and the Zombies and Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse. The Map to the Homes of the Stars was almost an anti-coming of age story. I liked the way the stories teetered on the edge of fantasy. Highly recommended. ( )
  dankeding | Sep 3, 2018 |
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