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Bennett, Robert Jackson

Entry updated 29 April 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1984-    ) US author whose first novel, Mr Shivers (2010), a supernatural thriller, plunges into what would become his dominant focus of interest: the Matter of America. In this tale, a man whose child has been murdered becomes a hobo in order to track down the eponymous creature responsible for this and other similar deaths, riding the rails of 1930s America in his quest for "justice" (see Crime and Punishment); Bennett portrays the troubled land with a melodramatic but hypnotic nostalgia. Mr Shivers won the Shirley Jackson Award (see Awards). The Company Man (2010), which is sf, is set in 1919, in a claustrophobic Steampunkish company town (see Dystopia) whose owners respond with utmost savagery to any attempts to expose the secret behind the world-changing Inventions that have granted them power; the protagonist, a Telepathic detective, walks down mean streets until he is truly Underground, where the engines run America. Also set in the past of America, The Troupe (2011), which is fantasy, follows a vaudeville troupe whose leader (he may be the father the young protagonist seeks) has been scouring the land for fragments of a tune ("the First Song"), a Meme which when sung transfigures its surroundings; the entire song, if it can be knitted back together, will cause the world as a whole to sing a better Story (the influence of John Crowley may be detected here). American Elsewhere (2013) exploits at considerable length an array of Horror in SF tropes as its protagonists edges into an understanding that the small New Mexican town of Wink, seemingly given over to a benign nostalgia for life as it was lived in 1950s America, is in fact a nightmare (see The Truman Show), a Utopia created in this instance by a dysfunctional family of Aliens with almost godlike powers, who have followed a bruise or portal in the Multiverse to our world in order to escape the devastation they have caused elsewhere, and who have fashioned a tv-inflected version of the 1950s to hold onto. The bruise has been generated by local experiments in quantum physics, though Bennett pays perhaps insufficient heed to this underlying sf premise. The novel as a whole, stripped of some of the excesses in its deliberately gonzo narrative sprawl, acutely encapsulates a vision of an America frozen in denial. The Divine Cities sequence beginning with City of Stairs (2014) presents Fantasy tales set in a strongly characterized Secondary World, whose venues bear clear resemblance to Russia and America; the gods have been killed. The City of stairs itself clearly evokes the Edificial fantasies of artists like both Piranesi and Escher [for Edifice and Secondary World see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. Vigilance (2019) is an extremely dark (though not improbable) portrait of a Near Future America so profoundly under the sway of gun violence that a Television reality game show (see Games and Sports) – whose generic roots resemble those most famously exploited in Robert Sheckley's Victim series – where targets are hunted down to focus attention on the nature of things; the biter-bit elaborations of the tale are tonally similar to various episodes in Black Mirror (2011-2019). [JC]

Robert Jackson Bennett

born Baton Rouge, Louisiana: 22 June 1984



Divine Cities

  • City of Stairs (New York: Penguin Random House/Broadway Books, 2014) [Divine Cities: pb/Sam Weber]
  • City of Blades (New York: Penguin Random House/Broadway Books, 2016) [Divine Cities: pb/Sam Weber]
  • City of Miracles (New York: Penguin Random House/Broadway Books, 2017) [Divine Cities: pb/Sam Weber]

The Founders

  • Foundryside (New York: Crown Publishers, 2018) [Founders: hb/Will Staehle]
  • Shorefall (New York: Del Rey, 2020) [Founders: hb/]
  • Locklands (London: Jo Fletcher Books, 2022) [Founders: hb/]

Shadow of the Leviathan

individual titles

  • The Company Man (New York: Orbit, 2009) [ebook: na/Lauren Panepinto and Ploy Siripant]
    • The Company Man (New York: Orbit, 2010) [print version of the above: hb/Lauren Panepinto and Ploy Siripant]
  • Mr Shivers (New York: Orbit, 2009) [ebook: na/Lauren Panepinto and Ploy Siripant]
    • Mr Shivers (New York: Orbit, 2010) [print version of the above: hb/Lauren Panepinto and Ploy Siripant]
  • The Troupe (New York: Orbit, 2011) [pb/]
  • American Elsewhere (New York: Orbit, 2013) [pb/Kirk Benshoff]
  • Vigilance (New York:, 2019) [pb/Brian Stauffer]


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