Strangers and the Moon


The Review’s Review

17776 (screenshot), by Jon Bois.

Four years after its first chapter was published on SB Nation in 2017, Jon Bois’s serialized multimedia novella 17776: The Future of Football is still my favorite (and some of the only) “new media” lit online. Told through text interspersed with video and graphics that mix satellite imagery, newspaper clippings, and Telestrated sports-field diagrams, the story follows the sentient space probe Pioneer 9 as it flies over the United States of the future: a land in which no one dies any more, but everyone still loves football. With their newfound immortality, Americans have developed more and more baroque constellations of rules for their favorite game, sending their players on elaborate, millennia-long scavenger hunts across the country. An epic reminiscent of Infinite Jest, it’s a dazzlingly idiosyncratic work of art that is equal parts exercise in speculative game design, history of a dying empire, and fable about the meaning of play, humanity, and technology. But 17776 isn’t just an experiment with form; Bois is a startlingly sensitive writer, and scrolling through his simple, color-coded dialogue feels like looking at the 1967 photo of Earth taken by an astronaut on the Apollo 8 mission: lonely, but awe-inducing. —Olivia Kan-Sperling 

The world depicted in the Colombian writer Evelio Rosero’s novella Stranger to the Moon (translated by Victor Meadowcroft and Anne McLean) is one of cruelty and excess, a series of physical struggles and acts of sexualized violence inflicted by the vicious “clothed” onto the “unclothed” they oppress. Told from the perspective of one of the unclothed, this is a hallucinatory read, brief and bizarre, and yet the murky boundaries, pathological masochism, and fascistic pull toward brutality it depicts tap into a frighteningly familiar human need to destroy—one we’ve seen reflected in the political realities of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. —Rhian Sasseen

I found a marked-up copy of The Accidental in a pile of books given to one of my sisters by a friend who was moving house. I knew little of Ali Smith before I started reading, but now I want to read all of her books. This one dives swiftly and deeply into several characters’ consciousnesses, each filtering the awful world through a particular kind of brain: an aspiring filmmaker, a brilliant physics student, a fairly bad poet, a writer of imaginary interviews. It manages youthful points of view with both sympathy and sophistication, and zero nostalgia. There is something so special about books that drop into one’s life, as opposed to those one aspires to read. Aspirational books can, and often do, disappoint. Found books hardly do that, and when they are delightful, it feels like a gift from the universe. —Jane Breakell

17776 (screenshot), by Jon Bois.