Short version: It's not so funny anymore.The shit lives Saunders portrays, at the mercy of corporations and technologies, are too familiar, too plausible, too full of unrelieved pain. And the weird, clipped, bureaucratic diction he employs—to demonstrate that even our language itself is trapped in these inhuman boxes—is mostly painful to take in, and when it's funny it's uncomfortable because we're trying to laugh at boxes we're inside too.Times have changed since [b:CivilWarLand in Bad Decline|28747|CivilWarLand in Bad Decline|George Saunders|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348410182s/28747.jpg|3265487]; Saunders is much more of a realist now, because reality has moved in his direction. His shtick feels cold, desperate. It doesn't offer relief from this bleak world; it's just more bleakness. Presenting it as comedy even feels cruel.He's still got a helluva imagination, an eye and an ear for what should be funny, but that's the wrong tone now. Our fucked-up world is no longer a laughing matter. Only the last story, the title story, offers any relief; it concludes with a straight-faced emotional revelation, a vision of wholesome love, in plain, sincere language. Maybe that only works after a story (or a book) full of pain and tortured words—otherwise it'd be too bare and maudlin? Well, it does work, and it suggests the way forward for Saunders' writing.