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Anderson, M T

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1968-    ) US author who has written almost exclusively for younger readers and the Young Adult audience; for the former market – in series like the Norumbegan Quartet, which is set partly in an Alternate World, and the spoofish Pals in Peril/Thrilling Tales [details in Checklist] – he has restricted himself to Fantasy. The Octavian Nothing series – comprising The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: The Pox Party (2006) and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: The Kingdom of the Waves (2008) [full titles in Checklist] – is not literally fantastic, though the cruel intricacies of its portrayal of a young Black man at the end of the eighteenth century in America justly tax the conventions of realism; and the close of the second volume, as Octavian lights out for the territory, is a kind of Slingshot Ending whose trajectory leads into an unknown future. The deliberate evocation of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) fixes the tale into a dark understanding of the myth of America.

Of sf interest are Anderson's first two novels. Thirsty (1997) is set in an Alternate World version of small-town America where Vampires are a constant problem and annual rituals are performed to keep their dangerously godlike Vampire Lord sealed in an empty Dimension; the 15-year-old protagonist, initially prone to sarcastic teenage Humour, must come to terms with his growing realization that he is about to become a vampire and therefore must necessarily die; the tale darkens steadily towards its close. Feed (2002) is set in a Dystopian Near Future America where the eponymous Computer implant connects anyone plugged in to a reciprocal global Internet dominated by social media sites and techno-consumption honey-traps, while at the same time multinational corporations collaborate with the government to monitor all retrievable information about anyone linked in. To refuse to link in is deemed sufficient grounds for the government to reciprocate by refusing its services in turn. The narrative itself leaves no grounds for easy optimism: its young protagonist, suddenly bereft of his umbilical on the Moon, cannot stand the silence which he is now experiencing for the first time in his life, and plugs back in as soon as possible. The deft but seemingly exaggerated Satire of the tale no longer seems inappropriate; and Feed has frequently been cited for its prescience. [JC]

Matthew Tobin Anderson

born Cambridge, Massachusetts: 4 November 1968



Norumbegan Quartet

Pals in Peril/Thrilling Tales

Octavian Nothing

individual titles (selected; picture books not listed)

  • Thirsty (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 1997) [hb/Greg Spalenka]
  • Feed (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2002) [hb/]
  • Yvain: The Knight of the Lion (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2017) with Andrea Offerman [graph: based on the Chretien de Troyes novel: illus/hb/Andrea Offerman]
  • Landscape with Invisible Hand (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Candlewick Press, 2017) [novella: hb/]
  • The Daughters of Ys (New York: First Second, 2020) with Jo Rioux [illus/hb/Jo Rioux]


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