Northern Illinois University Press


Ben Tanzer

Midwest Book Award, Midwest Independent Publishers Association, 2013
Bronze Medal, Independent Publisher IPPY Awards, 2015

Orphans is a brilliantly conceived dystopian novel that explores and parses out with wonderful economy the many stranded conflicts of contemporary fatherhood … Tanzer truly possesses a unique writing voice. I don’t know of anyone who writes about fatherhood the way Ben Tanzer does.”—Joseph G. Paterson, author of Beautiful Piece and Wanted: Elevator Man

“Tanzer combines contemporary issues such as debt, desperation for work, marital strain, and a man’s desire for family and normalcy with an imaginative interpretation of a futile future, where the United States is a wasteland and the only hope is moving the wealthy to another planet.” —Lavinia Ludlow, author of alt.punk and Single Stroke Seven

"Patently satirical, Orphans is about the reality of responsibility and the limitations imposed on us in adulthood by a capitalist society. Tanzer's setting and scenario owe much to George Orwell and Philip K. Dick, territory that sf fans might enjoy revisiting." —Booklist

In Ben Tanzer’s futurist science fiction novel the metropolis of Chicago has morphed into a place called Baidu, a burned-out shell of its former self. Homeless people have been banned from the central city and have set up makeshift camps along the lakefront. Drone helicopters constantly patrol city streets from above, and hapless people who congregate run the risk of being summarily executed. The recession has devastated the landscape and all menial jobs have been taken over by life-like robots. The lucky few who can find work are scanned, profiled, and even cloned by “the corporation,” a secretive and ominous organization reminiscent of Orwell’s Big Brother.

Tanzer tells a story about drugs, surfing, punk music, lost youth, parenting, sex, and pop culture as vernacular. The main character, Norrin Radd , is married to a trophy wife and has a son he desperately loves. Unable to support his family under growing pressure, he finds a job and is sent off to Planet Mars to act as a celestial real estate agent, selling “property” to wealthy clients who can no longer abide life on troubled Planet Earth, promising them an ethereal future in the cosmos.

Norrin is freakishly good at his job. He simply cannot square with himself the fact that he has sold his soul to the company store. Tanzer tells a riveting story that is a conscious intersection of The Martian Chronicles and The Space Merchants with Death of a Salesman and Bartleby the Scrivener. It raises essential questions of what we are allowed as workers, and expected to be, or do, when work is fraught with desperation.

Ultimately, Orphans is a literary survey of the 21st century male psyche, yet it does so with a newfound twist and contemporary themes. This is a world where the recession is all we know, work is only available to a select group, and this group not only need fear being replaced on the job, but in their homes and beds.

Nov. (2013) 170pp.
paper $15.95t

Ben Tanzer is a prolific novelist and an Emmy-award winning Public Service Announcement writer. Visit him online at

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ISBN: 9780875806952
paper $15.95