Short Story Collection Review: The Bearer of Grievances by Joseph McKinley

The Bearer of GrievancesThe Bearer of Grievances by Joseph McKinley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This short collection of 8 speculative stories takes a dark look at the direction humankind is veering. Collectively the later tales build on each other sharing similar themes and storylines nearly to the point of being indistinguishable. The recurrent theme is one of man becoming critically reliant on technology at the expense of contact with others humans. Humans careers are becoming pointless and redundant and thereby filled with bureaucracy and paperwork to an ever greater amount in search of something to do for the sake of doing it. It verges on the absolute absurd.

Buying people–it seems strange when I put it that way, but you do it all the time. That young, innocent guy with the peppy step and a broad smile–the one whom you’ll work until he’s flabby and hollow-eyed and dies at his desk–you bought him just as much as I buy mine. All we really buy is time. That’s all anyone has. And buy enough of it, and you’ve bought the entire person. [from “The Man on the Bike”]

The third tale, “Amazing Amy,” most effectively depicts the extreme reliance on technology as the human protagonist cannot feed herself, nor walk by herself. She felt uncomfortable in her only dealing with a self-mobile person. When a glitch in the electrical system after years of neglect takes the entire system and all the babysitting AI down, she finds herself stuck in the dark on the toilet just wanting a glass of water with nothing to be done about it . . .

Somewhere, someone is moaning–something about food, something about pain. But what should I do about it? I’m as stuck as they are. We’re all alone together. [from “Amazing Amy”]

In one of the many tales tracking the forms and bureaucracy involved in getting things done, the speaker bemoans the terrible food provided and yet notes that he “would go outside and buy something less poisonous but I’m afraid I’ll be auto-tracked, and I don’t feel like filling out the forms to open the door or requisition a key. [from “Not Having Leads to Use”]”

The best and most fully realized of the tales is the opening one that lends its name to the entire anthology. Drawing from sci-fi stories in which people have painful memories removed [think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this tale starts with an ad offering to remove one’s grievances and need for revenge while allowing a corporation to possibly enact revenge on behalf of a client while said client experiences peace of mind. The story then proceeds to follow a guy uploaded with over 75,000 blindingly wrathful grievances all speaking to him in turn and taking over his body when needed. This is a worst-case multiple personalities with nearly every voice a budding murderer, and yet he finds a way to make it work . . .

I received my copy of this novel directly from the publisher, Unsung Stories, through
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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