A Novel by Scott Phillips
Introduction by Gregory Maguire
Rut takes readers to the Rocky Mountains circa 2050, when the once-thriving burg of Gower is about to become a 21st-century ghost town. Thanks to extreme weather and plenty of toxic waste, the skiers and celebrities are gone, along with the money and the veneer of civilization. What’s left? Old-time religion and brand-new pharmaceuticals, bad food and warm beer, mutated animals and small-town gossip. Can the town survive? Read Rut and see.
Sly and cool, absurd and archly perceptive, Rut resonates with the best work of Kurt Vonnegut and Thomas Pynchon, all in a wonderfully weird tale unlike any other.
“Scott Phillips holds up to the light a dark crystal ball in which swirls our future.”
—Benjamin Percy, author of The Wilding and Refresh, Refresh
“Part of me would love to live in the near-future world Scott Phillips has imagined in Rut, but only a little part. Another great novel from one of our best.”
—Tom Franklin, author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
“Phillips does what Heinlein used to do so well, which is make his future seem lived in. It’s quite a book.”
– Locus Magazine
By Gregory Maguire
Here’s a book I admire like few others: Rut. The story is set some decades on, in a Rocky Mountain town demonstrably descended from our own times. You’ll find yourself simultaneously at home and at a loss, close kin to the survivors clinging to old ways. Those who still have enough fingers to serve can count up the disasters. Ecological collapse, government opacity, religious mania presented as an obligation. Sexual fervor as usual masking a deeper need. What poet David McCord once called “a shifty new pyemia—apprehension in the blood” is so chronic among the citizens of Gower, Colorado that they can no longer recognize it in themselves.
Scott Phillips dashes off characters with confidence, even brio; it’s like watching an artist with conte crayon do three-minute sketches from life. Here comes the mayor who’s in bed with Big Pharma (so to speak); here’s the high school kid with vestiges of an age-appropriate condition that passes, these days, for idealism. A stranger comes to town—a frog biologist. The local restaurateur has few legs and fewer inhibitions. These are the brave survivors of a new Dark Age, and they engage in acts of malfeasance and munificence in equal measure.
But under the guise of being a novel of Orwellian dystopia, hinting at desperate over-reach by the under-capable, Rut stands on terra very firma. Told in the third person, shifting through various narrators, Rut is more the portrait of a village—Gower, Colorado—than a bildungsroman of any individual. In this it shares genetic material with Winesburg, Ohio, and with Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, and Mayberry RFD, North Carolina. A decade or two on and this way of life, too, will have passed; the world is collapsing upon itself, and keeping alive is more important than keeping memory alive.
Take a good look at this chart of the mid twenty-first century that bears too spooky a resemblance to the day after tomorrow. Did I mention it’s funny? Yes, it’s funny, the way coming down with sea-sickness while standing on a street corner in Lansing, Michigan is funny. What the Rut is going on here?
– Concord, Massachusetts, May, 2011