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3.7 out of 5 stars60
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 16 January 2013
I have to write here to balance out the inexplicable one- and two-star reviews this brilliant work has so far received on UK Amazon.

Though I would take issue with the publishers' claim that George Saunders is "the undisputed master of the short story" - how can ANYONE be the undisputed ANYTHING? There'll always be dispute! - he is definitely "at the height of his powers" (to use another overused back-of-book phrase) and certainly *a* master of the form.

I laughed out loud at some of the stories in this collection. His dialogue in particular is priceless. People who call these "grim and depressing" ought perhaps to stick to the stories in Take A Break magazine. The humour is dark, but it's not inhumane; in fact a deep humanity runs beneath all these stories.

They are gripping, beautifully structured, original and often hilarious; one of the best collections I've read in the last few years - and I have read many.
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on 15 June 2013
There is nothing frivolous about these stories. But Saunders has a way of forcing you to examine the underbelly of things without making you feel awful. His characters are pathetic, but impossible not to like.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 13 October 2014
I welcomed this innovative collection of short stories. They certainly were out of the ordinary. I enjoyed them for the most part. The problem I had was that the author combines arcane plotting with a challenging prose style. Both are intriguing and interesting but if you combine the two together, is difficult to know what to concentrate on. Do you concentrate on understanding what's going on in the storyline or do you try to concentrate make sense of the idiosyncratic language. It's definitely worth a read -- but you do have to concentrate.
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on 30 March 2014
A distinctive and very dark voice. The Semplica Diaries is particularly chilling: Jonathan Swift would have been proud of it.
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`Tenth of December' written by George Saunders is latest short story collection made by many times awarded and one of the most admired short story writers. Saunders is known by his previously published collections such as `CivilWarLand in Bad Decline', `Pastoralia' and `In Persuasion Nation' that all have received acclaims both from the literary audience and critics.

Reading George Saunders stories is similar to a dream in which you surely have found yourselves at least once; it seems that you might do everything and still cannot get out of it, even though you might be aware that you are not awake, while a sense of discomfort and disturbance do not stop even when you wake up.

In his latest collection the reader will find 10 stories though the first `Victory Lap' and last `Tenth of December' after which the collection was named are the outstanding achievements, true masterpieces in which the lovers of fiction, especially short stories will enjoy.

`Victory Lap' brings a story about a young man whose life and behavior were so programmed by his parents that he doesn't know what to do witnessing a girl next door to him being abducted. But particularly the last story `Tenth of December' in a great way embodies what makes this author so special, while reader is introduced to a terminally ill man who decides to spare his family his own slow and agonizing death of cancer. He will go outside, hoping for a quick death from freezing, but there he will meet the unexpected person, unhappy boy, who will make him reconsider his decision.

With this story Saunders finishes perhaps his best anthology in which author once again puts reader in many moral dilemmas, in which he leads us to the point where it could be expected for us to make some decisions or judgments, still we are still not able to make them.

`Tenth of December' is certainly an essential and recommended reading for any fan of the Saunders earlier works. If, however, you didn't read this great writer before, you will not make a mistake if you begin this experience with `Tenth of December' because after its last page you will definitely want to read his previous stories.
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on 1 September 2015
I bought this after reading George Saunders' short essays each week in the Guardian Weekend magazine and thought that getting hold of a book full of delights would be just as enjoyable. The glowing introduction really got me pumped up and ready. Unfortunately I was wrong. I had next to no clue what was going on for the 50 or so pages I struggled through this book before giving up and taking it to the charity shop.

I think one of the previous reviewers got it right when he/she highlighted the fact that the amount of colloquialisms and nuances contained within were a problem. There were too many on each page and that made the already stuttering style of prose constantly grind to a halt before I had to look something up or try and decipher some French!

I felt annoyed not being able to persevere further with this but I don't think it was going anywhere for me and reading is supposed to be enjoyable and I just wasn't enjoying this at all. I think my pursuit of Mr Saunders' writing began and ended with that Guardian column which was more free flowing while this book seemed a bit forced and too clever for its own good. Oh well.
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on 25 July 2014
By the strength of the introductory chapter (written by Joel Lovell and strangely disguised as the first story in the collection) which praises Saunders's writing to lofty heights, the reader anticipates with bated breath to be transported into an elevated state of consciousness when he plunges into Saunders's stories.

So it is with a flagging spirit when this reader realises he is out of his depth in the opening pages of the first story "Victory Lap", when true enough, he encounters the "strange new language" of the characters (promised in the introductory chapter) as they mentally convey their inner thoughts in seemingly real-time fashion. It's the kind of narrative that effectively captures the unprocessed, haphazard thoughts that one has in his or her mind, but it makes for difficult reading, and a lot of getting used to. Thankfully, the story picks up speed and in the action that unfolds with violent speed, the motivations of each character becomes clear, and packs a tighter punch.

In the stories that follow, the reader encounters more of these internal mindscapes of characters who are inevitably disengaged from their realities, which are as pyschedelic as their inner desires, giving the stories a surrealistic veneer. Perhaps the most chilling story (in Chuck Palahniuk fashion) in this collection for me is "The Semplica Girl Diaries", which is made up of diary entries of a recognisably working-class middle-aged family man. While the reader may identify with his keeping-up-with-the-joneses concerns, there are a few disturbing details like the concern with what is called an "SG arrangement" on front lawns, and clues that these are not your usual bonsai displays, and the truth is a lot more frightening because of the casual tone the entries take.

In totality, the stories are varied and well-crafted, but they are definitely no walk in the park, and I could not help but wish I did not have to work so hard to unpack the writing.
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on 8 April 2016
The blurb on the cover says "The best book you'll read this year" Very true, IF you don't read any other books this year. If you were to put all the words in the English language, plus a few foreign ones, into a bucket, blindfold yourself, pick them out at random and write them down it would make more sense than this drivel. The blurb also says "The best short story writer in English" This is some of the strangest English I have ever read and I can think of several short writers "in English" whose output is far superior. It is my fault that I bought this book, if I had just read the first page I would have put this book straight back on the shelf. Please, please don't be tempted by the blurb on the cover, I doubt that the reviewers have even opened the book.
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on 11 February 2013
Saunders most recent collection has a melancholy muscle that fires each tale with a sadness at the decay and failing in everyday life. The fiction and near science fictions share similar themes and stylistic traits despite covering many different characters and scenarios, from an family struggling to keep up with the jones to an angry returning serviceman and a rule-bound kid, a similar vision of western culture appears, aspiration all yet failing, bombarding yet ever-remote. The tales range from the funny (My Chivalric Fiasco) to the tensely dramatic (The tenth of December) but each drives forward with dialogue or internal monologue revealing the gaps, lapses, failings and forlorn in our world. Essential.
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on 17 January 2015
Struggled with this. Loved "Civilwarland in Bad Decline" and "Pastoralia" - a genuinely new satirical voice taking funny and often surreal shots at American sacred cows. This, however, is too dense at times, and seems wilfully weird and abstract, and mostly fails to find the sweet spot we know he can work in. There are some interesting, clever ideas, but they don't really come off with the kind of style I would expect, and a couple of the stories were actually boring - reminded me a bit of the kind of "wacky" attempt at humour you sometimes see in an Aaron Sorkin teleplay. Somewhat disappointing, given my previous experience, and the enormous amount of critical praise and prizes this collection has received.
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