“I have never been faced with a moral crisis, let alone a matter of life or death.”
Peter Simons doesn’t spend much time at home in his apartment. Thanks to his job at a multinational company, he is often flying around the world, enjoying a life of luxurious solitude in five-star hotels. So when he returns after being away for nine months and notices a strange smell coming from his neighbour’s apartment, he initially tries not to get involved, but when a body is discovered, Peter’s carefully cultivated detachment begins to crumble. And when new people move into the vacant apartment, he gets caught up in a petty dispute that will bring him to the brink of moral ruin.
Bystander is a pitiless, bold work of intense psychological realism narrated by a professionally successful but socially bankrupt anti-hero who expects global connection and local anonymity. It excoriates the contingency of contemporary morality, and, at a time of growing isolation, forces the reader to examine what it means to be a good neighbour.
Praise for Bystander:
“Steeves writes like a modern Dostoyevsky—or a literary Larry David—offering a searing indictment of white male mediocrity. Bystander is a howl and a rebuke, asking into the (smoke-filled) air, ‘why are we like this???'” —Sean Michaels, award-winning author of Us Conductors and The Wagers
“Bystander is a late-capitalist morality tale about what we owe to neighbours—a black comedy about a contemporary American Psycho: not a serial killer, but a pathological invertebrate, a man whose compulsive passivity and sworn liberal-mindedness disconnect him emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually from those around him.” — Sadie Graham, Canadian Notes & Queries
“The book reads, at least to this reviewer, as a critique of the isolating nature of our contemporary society.” — Jason Smith, Broken Pencil
Previous Praise for Mike Steeves:
“Mike Steeves is a brilliant, singular voice in Can Lit: funny and fresh and fast!” —Miriam Toews, Scotiabank Giller Prize-nominated author of Fight Night
Most Anticipated: Our Spring 2022 Fiction Preview —49th Shelf
“An enjoyably quirky and biting portrait of personal realpolitik, “Bystander” offers a credible complement to ‘Fight Club’ and ‘American Psycho,’ though one minus the chest-beating postures and litres of shed blood.” —Brett Josef Grubisic, The Toronto Star
“The narrative that Mike Steeves has conjured in Bystander offers a bleak assessment of human society and comments in unflattering terms on the failures of modern urban life. It may not be uplifting, but anyone who reads this novel will not soon forget it, and it might even make you a more conscientious and caring neighbour.” —Ian Colford, The Miramichi Reader
“Steeves is endlessly quotable…but never glib. In Bystander, serious ideas and entertainment value are so intertwined as to be effectively one and the same.” —Ian McGillis, Montreal Gazette
Mike Steeves was born in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia and lives in Montreal, Quebec. His first novel, Giving Up, was published by Book*hug Press in 2015 and was a finalist for the Concordia University First Book Award. His work has appeared in The Globe & Mail, Matrix Magazine, The Shore and others.