Editors: Tobias S. Buckell, Joe Monti
Publication Date: 10/1/12
Publisher: Tu Books
[Goodreads | Amazon]
Blurb(GR): “No one can doubt that the wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men. No one can doubt that cooperation in the pursuit of knowledge must lead to freedom of the mind and freedom of the soul.”
—President John F. Kennedy, from a speech at University of California, March 23, 1962
In a world gone wrong, heroes and villains are not always easy to distinguish and every individual has the ability to contribute something powerful.
In this stunning collection of original and rediscovered stories of tragedy and hope, the stars are a diverse group of students, street kids, good girls, kidnappers, and child laborers pitted against their environments, their governments, differing cultures, and sometimes one another as they seek answers in their dystopian worlds. Take a journey through time from a nuclear nightmare of the past to society’s far future beyond Earth with these eleven stories by masters of speculative fiction. Includes stories by Paolo Bacigalupi, Ursula K. Le Guin, Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, Daniel H. Wilson, and more.
I like the idea of this anthology way more that I liked the anthology itself. This world is by no means populated by a white majority, so I think it’s ridiculous that so much of young adult literature is. One of the main things that can make me interested in reading a YA fantasy these days is a non-western setting - perhaps because I’ve read so much western-centric YA. I was really looking forward to reading this anthology, but after finishing it I found it to be mostly forgettable. However, there were a few really bright spots. Here's the run-down (listed from lowest rating to highest):
“Freshee’s Frogurt” by Daniel H. Wilson (1.5 stars): What the heck is this even doing in the collection? All of the main action and story is told by a white guy! I feel like this snuck in on a technicality (whether that technicality is the Native American character or the fact that Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse is being made by Steven Spielberg, I am not sure). This story is all mindless action with no substance.
“The Last Day” by Ellen Oh (3.5 stars), “Blue Skies” by Cindy Pon (3 stars), and “Gods of Dimming Light” by Greg Van Eekhout (3 stars) were all sorta interesting but ultimately very forgettable. I am having a hard time remembering anything but the vaguest of details right now.
“Uncertainty Principle” by K. Tempest Bradford (3 stars): The beginning of this really caught my interest, but then it just unraveled. It felt like she had a great idea for a full length novel, but then decided to cram it all into a short story. The second half felt completely rushed and as a result, most of the tension built during the first half was lost.
“Next Door” by Rahul Kanakia (3.5 stars): This one stuck out to me because I thought the world was a really interesting idea – a place where everyone is so plugged in and oblivious that they don’t even “see” the hundreds of their fellow humans squatting in their own homes/garages. It’s like human apathy to an extreme degree. However, the story itself did almost nothing for me.
“What Arms to Hold” by Rajan Khanna (3.5 stars): This is another one that I mostly liked. It also has a very interesting premise – very reminiscent of Ender’s Game. I also really liked the ending – it was pretty dark stuff. I’d like to read more from this author.
“A Pocket Full of Dharma” by Paolo Bacigalupi (3.5 stars): This was the second time I’ve read this one and I liked it less the second time. A very well developed world that is very authentically non-western with a sympathetic main character, but it didn’t really wow me. It’s a stand-out in this collection, though.
“Pattern Recognition” by Ken Liu (4 stars): This was one of my favorites. I loved Liu’s tie-in of real world child labor, and it was a nicely contained story that felt complete and very well executed.
“Good Girl” by Malinda Lo (4 stars): Dear girls of YA, please stop falling for the first jerk who treats you like crap. Even if she’s a girl, it’s still not sexy. That being said this was actually one of my favorites of the collection. It felt like an intense snapshot of the life of a girl I could completely relate to, and I thought it had a great ending. Maybe I didn’t quite like that Lo’s “good girl” main character would fall for the bad girl jerk, but it did feel authentic to the character that she would want to rebel a bit, and the relationship was painted realistically without any rosy, romantic artificiality. This was one where I wished for more.
“Solitude” by Ursula K. Le Guin (4.5 stars): Probably my favorite in the collection, although it’s a re-print. Ursula Le Guin isn’t afraid to dive headlong into a completely foreign culture and fully commit herself to its point of view. Here, we follow a young girl who’s relocated to a very tribal planet by her anthropologist mother and raised within its customs as a sort of experiment. However, when the time comes for her family to relocate back to their homeland, she finds that she can’t bear to part with her childhood home. A very interesting look at cultural perceptions and the things that shape us.
On average, this collection rates: