King Leere is one of our greatest novels

I’ve been rereading Steve Peck’s The Tragedy of King Leere and I’m convinced that it is one of the best works of Mormon fiction there is, but not just because Peck’s work is insanely creative or because his world-building is so hauntingly convincing. I believe it is a masterpiece because no one else captures the Mormon notions of stewardship, personal responsibility and family bonds better than Steve. This is your summer read.

Peck’s world is dystopian, make no mistake about it; the land is ruined, suitable only for genetically enhanced goats, and the people are ruined, left to scrabble over the poisoned pieces of what remains. But love and courage remain; this is why tying his dystopia to Shakespeare was such a brilliant conceit, because part of Shakespeare’s foundation is finding humanity in the midst of tragedy and loss. Is Leere a hopeful novel? Not more so than King Lear is a hopeful play; in Lear, the land is ruined as its king is ruined. But in Leere, the ecological damage is already done, the fruit of climate change and poor choices for generations — which is then magnified by the blind pride of the goatherd of the La Sals. The sheer scope of the book — in its characters, its setting and its message — is unparalleled in Mormon literature. It takes my breath away.

I am not the only one who feels this way about Steve’s book. The Tragedy of King Leere placed this year in The Eric Hoffer Award for Books, one of the largest international book awards for small, academic, and independent presses. This is a stupendous honor, and I’m extremely glad to see other recognizing its brilliance. Here is what they had to say:

The Tragedy of King Leere, Steven L. Peck, BCC Press – In this brilliant futuristic novel, set in Utah in 2086, a “king” must decide who shall inherit his climatologically devastated land where royalty and demons mix with bots, genetically engineered goats, and citizens with neural implants. Peppered with free verse and robot speech, combining science fiction and pure science, and drawing on Shakespeare, Tristam Shandy, “Star Wars,” et al., this is a timely story executed with supreme skill, wit, and bravado. Sentence by sentence, this astonishing work never ceases to bewitch and amuse, even as it addresses the tragic subject of ecological collapse and human irresponsibility. On the level of both content and style, it demonstrates virtuosity and originality. An ambitious, inventive, and entertaining work.”

Please join me in congratulating Steven Peck for this wonderful award. And please tell me what you thought of his book. And if you haven’t read it yet, you have something great waiting for you to read.

Full disclosure: I helped publish this book through BCC Press, and we’re very proud of it.

Comments

  1. Jonathan says:

    Regardless of the merits of “King Leere,” every organization bestowing literary, artistic, and academic awards would benefit by honoring an additional category: the Endorsing Correct Politics award.

    Not all great literature is didactic.

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