Upper Middlebrow

Upper Middlebrow

Latest Episodes

Episode 20: “The Eye of the Speculator,” or Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, Part II
May 25, 2023

Lauren Olamina leaves her ruined home in the second half of Octavia E. Butler's 1993 novel/theology document/allegory/philosophical text, heading for the mysterious utopia of Branscombe first and then

Episode 19: “A Wizard of Earthseed,” or Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, Part I
May 15, 2023

Parable of the Sower purports to be a work of speculative fiction, but Bagg points out that speculative is in the eye of the speculator. Dukes calls it the founding document of a theology that both

Episode 18: “No Apocalypse,No Foul,” Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary, Part II
May 04, 2023

Dukes and Baggs challenge each other to recap the second half in three and a half sentences before diving into what makes Weirs hard sci-fi novel about interstellar friendship so satisfying. Bagg un

Episode 17: “Bromancing the Stone Carapace,” or Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary
April 24, 2023

Many many many many writers take on hard science fiction, and get lost in the science, leaving behind such niceties as plot, character development, human insight, or deep emotional stakes. Somehow,

Episode 16: “Big Claws! Big MECHANICAL Claws!” or Jonathan Lethem’s The Arrest, Part II
April 13, 2023

Jonathan Lethems climax is fun, exciting, and surprises both Bagg and Dukes by not requiring much action from its already largely inactive protagonist, Journeyman. The UMBs once again consider the vi

Episode 15: “Big Tank! Big NUCLEAR Tank!” Jonathan Lethem’s The Arrest, Part I
April 03, 2023

Jonathan Lethem imagines not so much an apocalypse, but a kind of slow pause of most (but not all) advanced technologies, he calls The Arrest. Dukes and Bagg find the scenario fascinating and are no

Episode 14: “The Impervious Battleship Egan,” or A Visit From the Goon Squad, Part II
March 23, 2023

In the second half of Goon Squad, many of the characters end upsurprisingly OK, especially when you consider their struggles and self-destructive capacity displayed in the first half. Bagg and Dukes

Episode 13: “Time the Ravager” or Jennifer Egan’s 2010 A Visit From the Goon Squad, Part I
March 13, 2023

After a camel cricket update (!), Jesse and Chris try to untangle the conga line of affection and destruction that forms the structure of Egan's remarkable 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Bagg play

Episode 12: “Hitler’s Springtime + Ziegfried’s Follies,” or Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, Part III
March 03, 2023

Play along with Dukes and Bagg as we play Neal Stephenson Bingo. We find that the final third does pick up a bit, with Goto Dengos story in particular providing a satisfying character arc. There are

Episode 11: “The Utopia of Fresno” or Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, Part II
February 24, 2023

Dukes and Bagg wonder about the length of the middle section of the book, which as far as they can tell, only establishes one major plot point. And they wonder at the stakes of the novel? Who cares if