You Bright and Risen Angels

( 2 )


In the jungles of South America, on the ice fields of Alaska, the plains of the Midwest, and the streets of San Francisco, a fearsome battle rages. The insects are vying for world domination; the inventors of electricity stand in evil opposition. Bug , a young man, rebels against his own kind and joins forces with the insects. Wayne, a thug, allies himself with the malevolent forces of electricity and vows to assassinate the preying mantis who tends bar in Oregon. A brusque La Pasionara with the sprightly name of...

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In the jungles of South America, on the ice fields of Alaska, the plains of the Midwest, and the streets of San Francisco, a fearsome battle rages. The insects are vying for world domination; the inventors of electricity stand in evil opposition. Bug , a young man, rebels against his own kind and joins forces with the insects. Wayne, a thug, allies himself with the malevolent forces of electricity and vows to assassinate the preying mantis who tends bar in Oregon. A brusque La Pasionara with the sprightly name of Millie leads an intrepid band of revolutionaries.

You Bright and Risen Angels is the work of an extraordinary imagination. In this free-wheeling novel of epic proportions, William T. Vollmann has crafted a biting, hilarious satire of history, technology, politics, and misguided love.

A bold allegorical epic that hovers somewhere between the surreal and the incredible. Vollmann tells of the battle for power between the inventors and developers of electricity and the insect world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It's no easy taskby the author's clear intentionto say exactly what's going on and why in this ferociously talented first novel, a comic-surrealistic assault upon reason that should appeal to those who enjoy Thomas Pynchon. The story is an epic brew of technology, magic, politics, history and entomology, by turns fiercely satiric and good-naturedly humorous. The narrative flits from the jungles of South America to the dusty plains of Afghanistan, the ice fields of Alaska, the streets of San Francisco and many other places, featuring as its principal theme a pitiless war between insects and the inventors of electricity the distinction between man and insect being somewhat blurred. This battle takes place amid the semi-rational doings of revolutionaries, reactionaries, electrical engineers, prostitutes and social misfits. Some judgments may be ventured: that Vollmann's imagination is astounding; that his dark vision of a perpetually feuding world gives his novel artistic integrity; and that whatever his story may add up to, every page arrests and entertains. Drawings by the author. May 27
Library Journal
In this surrealistic allegory, America is populated exclusively by revolutionaries and reactionaries. The reactionaries are led by the mysterious Society of Daniel, a group of electrical engineers who worship the sacred Book of Generators. The revolutionaries, humanoid insects who pledge allegiance to the Great Beetle, are united by a common experience of torture at the hands of crewcut bullies. Vollmann calls the book a cartoon, and although he clearly sympathizes with the radicals, they are, after all, only bugs. In addition to an undigested mass of information about power plants, entomology, and hand guns, there is a lot of good writing herebut not nearly enough to fill 600 pages. With better editing this might have been outstanding. As it stands, it is a fascinating flop, but one that readers interested in experimental fiction will want to take a look at. Edward B. St. John, Loyola Marymount Univ. Lib., Los Angeles
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140110876
  • Publisher: Viking Penguin
  • Publication date: 12/28/1988
  • Series: Contemporary American Fiction Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 656
  • Sales rank: 820,053
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.61 (d)

Meet the Author

William T. Vollmann

William T. Vollmann is the author of eight novels, three collections of stories, a memoir, and Rising Up and Rising Down, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction. Vollman's writing has been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, The Paris Review, Esquire, Conjunctions, Granta, and many other magazines. He lives in California.


Fearless, ambitious, and wildly original, William T. Vollmann has been lionized as one of the most significant and influential voices in contemporary postmodernist literature. His dauntingly voluminous books, a hodgepodge of fiction and journalism, are marked by bold, often beautiful language. They also spring from personal experience: Volmann is famous for total immersion in his subjects. His research has taken him to the ends of the earth – to the North Pole, to war zones around the globe, and (perhaps most famously) to San Francisco's notorious Tenderloin district to gain a better understanding of its notorious denizens..

Vollmann roared onto the literary scene in 1987 with You Bright and Risen Angels, a bold and quirky debut novel that chronicled in allegorical fashion the bitter battle between insects and the inventors of electricity. From that point on, his books became less surreal and more gritty. In 1992, he wrote his first "official" work of nonfiction, An Afghanistan Picture Show , an impressionistic chronicle of his experiences among the Afghan rebels in the early 1980s. Since then, the prolific author has produced an unstoppable juggernaut of prose, most notably installments in his towering fictional sequence Seven Dreams: A Book of North American Landscapes and a labyrinthine seven-volume treatise on violence called Rising Up, Rising Down. Published by the iconoclastic publishing house McSweeney's in 2003, this magnum opus was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction.

In 1999, The New Yorker named Vollmann one of the 20 best American writers under the age of 40. In 2005, he was awarded the National Book Award for Fiction for Europe Central, a 750-page series of linked stories set in Germany and Russia during World War II. His journalism continues to appear in such magazines as Esquire, Spin, Gear, Outside, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, and The New Yorker. In addition, he has founded the Co-Tangent Press as a vehicle for publishing his own limited edition art books.

Good To Know

Vollmann wrote his first novel, You Bright and Risen Angels, while working as a computer programmer.

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    1. Also Known As:
      m the Blind, Captain Subzero
    2. Hometown:
      Sacramento, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 28, 1959
    2. Place of Birth:
      Santa Monica, California
    1. Education:
      Attended Deep Springs College and Cornell University

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2003

    Start Here

    If you want to find out what Vollman is about, this is the best place to start and I would say, having read 3 other books by him, that this is his best work. There is a lot of familiar territory for folks who enjoy Gravity's Rainbow and JR. But Vollman is his own writer and of the young hotshots who emerged in the late 80's and early 90's--Richard Powers, David Foster Wallace--Vollman is the best writer. Nothing ever seems forced with Vollman and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of chemistry, computer hardware, American history and pop culture which he finds ways to mesh into a world vision without just showing off. Explaining too much about this book would be a mistake. On the one hand, we have monopolistic power; on the other, fanatical rebels. Sound familiar?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2003

    A sadistic satire on power monopolies

    Vollmann displays a deft handling of words and a true mastership of modern storytelling. Reading this novel, (the three others I read by him were not as good) one is reminded of the true power and delight of writing. The book professes to be a cartoon (a comically sadistic, surrealistic one at that!) about the 'Insect Wars': insects versus humans in a never-ending battle for world domination. Electric power monopolies, ethereal and sinister, 'Blue Globes' and the (literally) immortal CEO and sadist Mr. White, of 'White Power & Light' electric company, are the foils to the main character 'Bug', a disaffected white middleclass kid who becomes a merciless guerilla with the aid of insect homing devices. Modern writing at it's best.

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