A June Night in the Late Cenozoic

by Robert Allen,
140 pages,
ISBN: 0889821410

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Brief Reviews
by Helen Hacksel

The Cenozoic spans the last 75 million years of Earth's history. A time of accelerated evolution, it has produced a multitude of plants and animals; human beings are one of its very recent creations. The post-modernist short stories in A June night in the Late Cenozoic (Oolichan, 164 pages, $12.95 paper) burst with a similar creative energy and wild imagination. Alive with colour, they are as diverse as the universe itself. Pigs, and stars, and butterflies, comic strip characters, black holes and blue moons act and interact in unexpected ways and combinations. Real and imaginary worlds spin through the pages, all throwing light on modern life.

The creator of these worlds, the poet and fiction writer Robert Allen, has a black and biting sense of humour, and a poet's way with language. A constant theme evolves: our obsessive search for knowledge and control leads only to more advanced technology, never to the mystery at the centre of things. An increasingly dehumanized society is the result. "El Jefe" tells of a time when "the list of the disappeared will be computerized... and each mother will receive a letter of condolence with her telephone bill." In "The Green Star", scientists wait for a falling stellar object to hurtle close enough to earth to yield "useful data", a requirement that "seemed to approximate a direct hit." There is more of science's obstinate myopia in "Bean Spasm", when two space travellers fall into a black hole while arguing about the digital expression of God.

Dark thoughts about technological progress have been expressed before, but never in a more original, and wickedly enjoyable way.

Helen Hacksel


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