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Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham
Specimen Days is three novellas, all set in New York City in different time periods, and all linked with the prose of Walt Whitman. "In the Machine" is set during the Industrial Revolution of the 1860s, and revolves around a boy named Lucas, a 12-year-old who quotes Whitman, who goes to work on the same machine in the same factory that killed his older brother, Simon. Lucas decides that the machine contains Simon's ghost, as do the other machines for the men they've killed. He is infatuated with Catherine, the woman carrying Simon's baby. "The Children's Crusade" is set in contemporary times, and a police detective named Catherine (who lives with a man named Simon) must solve a string of bombings being perpetuated by a group of boys. The only clues they leave behind are quotes from Whitman. Catherine realizes her dead son, Luke, would now be the same age as the boys terrorizing the city. "Like Beauty" is set 150 years into the future when the city is populated by humanoids and extraterrestrials. Simon is a cyborg, with a poetry chip programmed with Whitman, who mugs tourists in the theme park the city has become. Simon falls for Catareen, a lizard woman from the planet Nadia, and they're on the run from authorities when they encounter a 12-year old boy named Luke. Specimen Days from Michael Cunningham (The Hours) has received positive reviews with The San Jose Mercury News saying, "The result is a book that's passionate in its weaving together of images and ideas, both startling the mind and touching the heart."