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issue 08/15/2000

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vCity 1.0
by Dr. Adam L. Gruen

20 days in the life of a 21st century virtual city simulation.

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Pit's Letter
by Sue Coe

- reviewed by J.M. Frank

Technically, this is a book that a child could read. With more pictures than text, in format this slim volume resembles a children's book. But make no mistake about it, this is not book to lightly read to your child before bedtime.

The subject matter of this work of fiction is most definitely adult in nature. The narrative is told in the form of a letter from a pit bull named Pit to his one surviving litter mate. Pit is separated from his litter and adopted by a boy named Pat Watson. For a while he has a good home and a best friend, but things soon turn bad. The dog ends up briefly living through several of the worst ways we mistreat our "best friends". Pit goes from the streets, to a shelter, to an animal laboratory.

I can think of no work of fiction that gives more impact per word. The story will haunt the reader for much longer than the time it takes to read it. But it is not only the text that will stay with the reader. Coe is perhaps better known for her artwork than her prose and the often apocalyptic images in this book have at least as much impact as the text. While the text generally sticks to a simple storyline, the illustrations go much further than the text at giving impressionistic and powerful images of man's cruelty to both animals and other humans.

Coe does a good job in the story of showing cruelty and thoughtless behavior permeates the lives of many people. From children pulling the wings of insects, to abusing homeless people, images of humans acting poorly are shown throughout.

But the story is powerful enough without embellishment so that at times, one wishes Coe would just let the story speak for itself rather than telling us explicitly for example about man's history of genocide. Coe also mixes the surreal with the real in a few places. Sometimes this works (such as in the case of the ironic purpose of the animal experiments). But sometimes it detracts from a story where the strength comes from its simple realism (such as the story's flawed timeline).

Overall, this is a powerful and unforgettable story. It is a great read for adults who are looking for powerful truth rather than pleasant escapism. And yes, it can be even be a good book for a child to read at an age where they can handle it. It may give them a nightmare or two, but it will also give them a positive lesson that they may never forget.

J.M. Frank welcomes your comments on this review.


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