From Huxley's Brave New World, to Orwell's 1984, to Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, dystopian books have always been an integral part of both science fiction and literature, and have influenced the broader culture discussion in unique and permanent ways. Brave New Worlds brings together the best dystopian fiction of the last 30 years, demonstrating the diversity that flourishes in this compelling subgenre. This landmark tome contains stories by Ursula K. Le Guin, Cory Doctorow, M. Rickert, Paolo Bacigalupi, Orson Scott Card, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, and many others.
Table of Contents Introduction / John Joseph Adams -- Lottery / Shirley Jackson -- Red card / S.L. Gilbow -- Ten with a flag / Joseph Paul Haines -- Ones who walk away from Omelas / Ursula K. Le. Guin -- Evidence of love in a case of abandonment / M. Rickert -- The Funeral / Kate Wilhelm -- O happy day! / Geoff Ryman -- Pervert / Charles Coleman Finlay -- From homogeneous to honey / Neil Gaiman & Bryan Talbot -- Billennium / J.G. Ballard -- Amaryllis / Carrie Vaughn -- Pop squad / Paolo Bacigalupi -- Auspicious eggs / James Morrow -- Peter Skilling / Alex Irvine -- The Pedestrian / Ray Bradbury -- Things that make me weak and strange get engineered away / Cory Doctorow -- Pearl diver / Caitlin R. Kiernan -- Dead space for the unexpected / Geoff Ryman -- "Repent harlequin!", said the Ticktockman / Harlan Ellison -- Is this your day to join the revolution? / Genevieve Valentine -- Independence day / Sarah Langan -- Lunatics / Kim Stanley Robinson -- Sacrament / Matt Williamson -- Minority report / Philip K. Dick -- Just do it / Heather Lindsley -- Harrison Bergeron / Kurt Vonnegut Jr. -- Caught in the organ draft / Robert Silverberg -- Geriatric ward / Orson Scott Card -- Arties aren't stupid / Jeremiah Tolbert -- Jordan's waterhammer / Joe Mastroianni -- Of a sweet slow dance in the wake of temporary dogs / Adam-Troy Castro -- Resistance / Tobias S. Buckell -- Civilization / Vylar Kaftan.
If I rate the anthology as a whole using my usual "as the average of the contributions" system, then Brave New Worlds gets a composite rating of 4.0303. But I loved what Adams did here, and it may have de-throned Wastelands to become my new favorite anthology.
Individual stories rated as follows:
"The Lottery", Shirley Jackson - one of the classic dystopian fiction stories; and the narrative's success is due (in large part) to how prosaic and unassuming it is--not "pastoral", but written like someone from a pastoral setting. And if you got hit with it (for the first time) at a young age like I did, I'm sure you can agree that it's a phenomenon. ★★★★★
"Red Card", S.L. Gilbow - Adams (the editor) took special care in ordering these stories, and he definitely wants you to read this one immediately after reading "The Lottery". Gilbow gives us a sort of inverse of Shirley Jackson's classic; and though his prose isn't as gifted, it's a little bit chilling to consider, especially if you read it back-to-back with Jackson's. ★★★☆☆ by itself but ★★★★☆ as an accompaniment to "The Lottery".
"Ten With A Flag", Joseph Paul Haines - Holy shit. You think to yourself: "I hate it when an author uses 'Johnnie' for an adult characters name"; and you think: "Maybe that ending is just a little bit telegraphed"; but you think: "Damn but that is the ultimate question." ★★★★☆ on style but ★★★★★ on substance.
"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", Ursula K. Le Guin - A little pretentious, a little style-heavy; but also brilliant in a way that doesn't take a lot of churning to get. ★★★★★
"Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment" by M. Rickert - Reading it, one almost immediately concludes: "It's like Handmaid's Tale light!" Right down to the oblique nod with the "classmate" character's name (Jenna Offeren? Offred?). But the message is mostly clear (if a bit muddled by the clumsy adolescent voice) and the story fits right into the collection. Plus Rickert is (generally speaking) a gifted writer. ★★★☆☆ by itself but ★★★★☆ in the anthology's collection.
"The Funeral" by Kate Wilhelm - Another one that stands in good company with The Handmaid's Tale; an all-around amazing short. ★★★★★
"O Happy Day!" by Geoff Ryman - A little bit of everything, thematically. And written in a marvelously stark style; pitch perfect. Also: almost certainly inspired by the phrase "feminazi" (and taking it to its logical extreme, what with the trains and the mass murders). ★★★★★
"Pervert" by Charles Coleman Finlay - I feel like I keep handing out 5-star ratings to these individual stories but... well, these deserve it. This one was another pitch perfect slant on a dystopia rooted in sexuality; it was well-placed after "O Happy Day!" and seemed almost like its kinder/gentler-yet-somehow-more-sinister cousin. ★★★★★
"From Homogenous to Honey" by Neil Gaiman and Bryan Talbot - A comic strip style take on the homogenous de-queered dystopia. A little blunt, and lacking some of the artistry I'd otherwise expect. ★★☆☆☆
"Billennium" by J.G. Ballard - Felt like a typical Ballard backdrop to me; the paranoia, the claustrophobia, the outside closing in... An abrupt break from the themes of the past three stories and onward into a metropletic apoplexy. Again: typical Ballard. ★★★★☆
"Amaryllis" by Carrie Vaughn - First caught this one online in Lightspeed magazine; loved it then; loved it more on the second reading. The re-jiggered senses of family and community; there is a lush and twisted tapestry in this tale. ★★★★★
"Pop Squad" by Paolo Bacigalupi - He has come a long way since "The People of Sand and Slag"; a long way indeed. If The Windup Girl was great, then this was stellar. The whole premise of outlawing children in the face of a population swollen through longevity drugs? Chilling. I would love to see this expanded to novel length. ★★★★★
"Auspicious Eggs" by James Morrow - I'll admit a certain special soft spot for folks that take on the fundamentalist agenda; and Morrow's vision is chilling and well-placed within the anthology (as it's a pretty potent foil to "Pop Squad"). His combination of the "Doctrine of Affirmative Fertility" along with that global warming/rising sea levels stuff? Frightening. That bit at the very end threw me tough. ★★★½☆
"Peter Skilling" by Alex Irvine — The lead-in note suggests that this one (like the preceding story) takes certain fundamentalist views to their logical conclusion in a political context; so I was waiting for that and... it didn't really come. Irvine's take on the re-awakened man is an interesting one (albeit: why resurrect a man just to prosecute and execute him?); but I didn't really get terribly strong overtones of religiosity; but totalitarianism? Yes. ★★★☆☆
"The Pedestrian" by Ray Bradbury — Not a phenomenal bit of prose, but definitely tight. And perfectly placed in the collection for maximum punch. (And I've got a soft spot for this particular theme.) ★★★☆☆
"The Things That Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away" by Cory Doctorow — A little bit Neal Stephenson's Anathem, a little bit William Gibson's Idoru. And though it's a bit long (as Doctorow short stories seem to be), it lacks some of the tedium that would make me otherwise reluctant to read it. Another story oh-so-perfectly nestled into this collect. ★★★★☆
"The Pearl Diver" by Caitlín R. Kiernan — A perfect complement to Doctorow's take on the same kind of hyper-surveillance from the preceding story. But this one... What style. ★★★★★
"Dead Space for the Unexpected" by Geoff Ryman — Says so right in the editorial intro: it's like Office Space, but a thousand times more sinister. That final paragraph seems like it could have been cut though. ★★★½☆
"'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" by Harlan Ellison® — Yet again: such a fitting complement to the preceding story. Takes the same focus on time and scheduling and punctuality but gives it a more fanciful, stylistic spin. (And even though this is probably to the best Ellison I've ever read, there's something about Ellison that rubs me the wrong way.) ★★★☆☆
"Is This Your Day to Join the Revolution?" by Genevieve Valentine — Resonates pretty close to Finlay's "Pervert" (vide supra). But seemed less cutting; rather than be specifically about sexual politics, it's about suppression in a more general sense. (Also: not another "Johnny"!) ★★★☆☆
"Independence Day" by Sarah Langan — This is the story "Is This Your Day to Join the Revolution?" could have been. This one gets gritty and personal — what with the race and identity politics, and the suppression/oppression experiments, and the government mandates, etc. And man-oh-man is there something ever so sympathetic and identifiable about Trina. ★★★★☆
"The Lunatics" by Kim Stanley Robinson — An interesting break from its (mostly? entirely?) Earth-bound kin in this anthology. Parts of it drag a little but it's otherwise solid, and suitably bleak. ★★★★☆
"Sacrament" by Matt Williamson — A bit heavy-handed? A bit told-not-shown? But intriguing inasmuch as his choice of perspective (i.e., the torturer's) lends a different lens, a different voice compared to most other offerings in the collection. ★★★½☆
"Minority Report" by Philip K. Dick — One of the most frightening of Dick's fragile realities; what makes "Minority Report" such a strong dystopian story is how you wrestle with the whole notion of pre-crime, and how it so clearly demonstrates how we rush into policy decisions with new technologies before we really understand them. ★★★★½
"Just Do It" by Heather Lindsley — Cute; mildly subversive. One of those "it follows logically" type natural extensions from modern behavioral targeting and other "personalized marketing". An interesting what-if; though the twist was a bit predictable for corporate espionage fiction. ★★★½☆
"Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. — Ensuring equality for all... via handicaps. Classic Vonnegut theme and style. "And so it goes." ★★★★☆
"Caught in the Organ Draft" by Robert Silverberg — Pitch perfect dystopian fiction; has everything you would want/need for a story like this. The ambiguous morality, the questionable "for a better world" agenda with all of the requisite "yeah and/but except in this cirumstance..."; the narrator that ultimately allows those same "yeah and/but except" circumstances to undermine his own idealism. ★★★★★
"Geriatric Ward" by Orson Scott Card — It's not an all together bad story; but as far as dystopian stories go it was... a bit weak. I wasn't terribly intrigued by the questions raised, and as someone raising a child, I find the idea of nine year-old parents baffling. ★★☆☆☆
"Arties Aren't Stupid" by Jeremiah Tolbert — Strong the whole way around; interesting questions, and an interesting world with a lot of depth. Something about it reminded my of Marc Laidlaw's "400 Boys"--what with the underground culture and the easy slang and the factionalism. There are some little details that make aspects seem disjointed, and I felt like I could have used a bit more fleshing out of some of the characters, but overall this one came out strong. ★★★★☆
"Jordan's Waterhammer" by Joe Mastroianni — Interesting scene-setting, what with the sexless clones and the regimented industrialism of it all. I always get a little sad though with how quick authors are to take themes having to do with empathy and love and mesh those into some thinly veiled messianic aspect (complete with nee gospels). Despite that (and despite some odd... typos?), it was a good take. ★★★☆☆
"Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs" by Adam-Troy Castro — By now in the anthology, you should have developed a connoisseur's palate for dystopian fiction; and this should do nicely. More "fantasy" than "science fiction", and it definitely leans to the hyperbolically stylistic. But the "big important question" is there (re is the ultimately comfortable life worth it if every tenth day you'll be tortured nearly to death?), and it is chilling in the right ways. ★★★★½
"Resistance" by Tobias Bucknell — I loved this story; the style and the pacing, the nod to cyberpunk classic Neuromancer. In a way, this story is very much cyberpunk itself — the examination of isolation and disenfranchisement. But here is a disenfranchisement born of the idea that democratic governance could be predictive, calculated, summed-and-averaged from voter beliefs as inferred from behaviors. But it needed to be a novella (or longer). ★★★★☆
"Civilization" by Vylar Kaftan — You could look at those introductory notes and reflect on your own experience as a kid in the 1980s and say: "A Choose Your Own Adventure? that's not creative at all." And of course, you'd be wrong. Kaftan perfectly (and creatively) sums up the whole thesis of the collection with this one. Pure gold. A+ ★★★★★
I read about three quarters of this and stopped & could go no further. It was dull and kind of depressing. Well, what was I thinking! Of course it was! That’s sort of the point, yeah? It’s an anthology of dystopian stories – that’s what it is! Doesn’t try to hide it, right there on the cover. Wellll…. No. I was depressed for a different reason. Almost every story in here is a variation of either the Handmaid’s Tale (lunatic religious repression of women) or 1984 (mad fascist government oppression of everybody and micromonitoring of every aspect of your life even your dreams ha ha ha).
Occasionally you get an original idea, like Red Card by SL Gilbow. The author says that the idea for this came to him in the car talking with his daughter :
One day after a driver cut me off in heavy traffic I turned to my daughter and said ‘Everyone should be allowed to shoot one person without going to prison’. My daughter thought for a second and then turned to me and said ‘Dad, if that were true you would have been dead a long time ago.’
Then there’s a terrific miners rebellion story by Kim Stanley Robinson, there are old familiar gems like The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, The Pedestrian by Ray Bradbury and Billennium by JG Ballard but otherwise, for these modern sf writers, their idea of dystopia is the same as George Orwell’s but with upgraded technology : totalitarianism. Big government – no, bloody enormous government.
But human beings are very inventive, and I’m quite sure that’s not the only way to ruin a planet.
As far as short story anthologies go, it really doesn't get any better than this: 36 stories by well-respected writers, each one a chilling dystopian vision of the future, raising a rich variety of seriously mind-bending questions about the world we're living in today.
The stories have obviously been very carefully curated, so that each flows smoothly to the next. Certain themes (like reproductive rights, time management, privacy and the ageing of the world's population) are explored from differing perspectives, sometimes through back-to-back stories.
And if the stories alone don't get your brain pumping, there's a study guide at the back, along with an enormous list of further reading and a dystopian cinema guide. Seriously - if this book doesn't have something for you, if it doesn't make you stop and think about something new, or at least give you the odd tiny chill going down your spine... give up. You're officially a lost cause, and you should just stop reading.
I've added the full list of stories below with my personal verdict, but it really is hard to pick out highlights when the overall quality is this high. Even the stories I didn't love weren't terrible - they just suffered by comparison with the other stories around them. Note: The stories marked with a "♛" are those that were truly incredible, and I highly encourage people to track down a copy for themselves at all costs..!
CONTENTS ✘The Lottery — Shirley Jackson - One of my least favourite stories, but still a classic for a reason. ✔Red Card — S. L. Gilbow ✔Ten With a Flag — Joseph Paul Haines ♛ The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas — Ursula K. Le Guin - The price of happiness. ✔Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment — M. Rickert ✔The Funeral — Kate Wilhelm ✔O Happy Day! — Geoff Ryman - Very dark indeed. ✔ Pervert — Charles Coleman Finlay ✘From Homogenous to Honey — Neil Gaiman & Bryan Talbot ✔Billennium — J. G. Ballard ✔Amaryllis — Carrie Vaughn ♛Pop Squad — Paolo Bacigalupi - Reproductive rights - So immersive, you can smell the hormones. ✔Auspicious Eggs — James Morrow ✔Peter Skilling — Alex Irvine ✔The Pedestrian — Ray Bradbury ✘The Things that Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away — Cory Doctorow ✘The Pearl Diver — Caitlín R. Kiernan ✔Dead Space for the Unexpected — Geoff Ryman ✔“Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman — Harlan Ellison® ✔Is This Your Day to Join the Revolution? — Genevieve Valentine ✔Independence Day — Sarah Langan ♛The Lunatics — Kim Stanley Robinson - Slavery ✔Sacrament — Matt Williamson ✔The Minority Report — Philip K. Dick ✔Just Do It — Heather Lindsley ✔Harrison Bergeron — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. ✘Caught in the Organ Draft — Robert Silverberg ✔Geriatric Ward — Orson Scott Card ✔Arties Aren’t Stupid — Jeremiah Tolbert ♛Jordan’s Waterhammer — Joe Mastroianni - Slavery ♛Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs — Adam-Troy Castro - The price of happiness ✔Resistance — Tobias S. Buckell ✘Civilization — Vylar Kaftan ✔The Cull — Robert Reed ✘Personal Jesus — Jennifer Pelland ♛The Perfect Match — Ken Liu - Online privacy - I've been thinking about this one ever since I put the book down. At first I thought the writer was being a bit heavy-handed in emphasising the links to today's culture and technology, but then it started to sink in for me.. It really IS scarily similar to the technological world we live in..... in fact almost identical if you think about it. Amazing to think that we already have let most of these things happen and are largely unaware of what we've done by giving up our privacy and right to choose.
A lot of the material is available online in full text or podcast. The editor's website is an awesome source of free stuff and extra information: http://www.johnjosephadams.com/brave-... Go there. Go NOW!
Even people who don’t usually read science fiction will often be familiar with a few classic titles in the “dystopian SF” sub-genre. After all, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and of course the famous Aldous Huxley novel Brave New World are some of the few SF titles that have entered the mainstream literary canon to such an extent that they’ve become assigned school reading for many students. However, novel-length dystopian SF didn’t stop with those venerable classics, and can even be said to be thriving at the moment. See, for example, the recent success of Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut The Windup Girl — admittedly one of the finest SF novels of the last few years, but undoubtedly even more successful because its vision of an environmentally ruined future taps into many people’s concerns over one of the biggest challenges of our time. In fantasy, there seems to be a similar revival of darker and grittier books that mirrors this renewed popularity of gloomy genre fiction. There are even dystopian YA novels out there.
Less well known but equally deserving of our attention are the many excellent short stories written in the sub-genre. To rectify this situation, we now have Brave New Worlds, a brand new anthology of dystopian SF short stories edited by John Joseph Adams. And, while “definitive” is not a word to be thrown around lightly, in this case it’s more than appropriate: Brave New Worlds is as perfect an anthology as you could hope for, and if there’s ever a college-level class about dystopian SF, this book is almost guaranteed to be assigned reading.
One of the great things about a broad anthology like this one, collecting 33 different stories that still all fall under the umbrella of dystopian SF, is that you get the chance to sample a large variety of styles and approaches. Classics and brand new stories, short vignettes and longer tales, and almost every variety of what could constitute a dystopia: age discrimination — against the old AND the young; sexual discrimination — against women, men, or based on sexual orientation (both hetero- and homosexual); environmentally damaged worlds; societies with too many babies, not enough babies, or even no babies at all; people living too long; people dying too soon. Almost anything that could conceivably go wrong with our world goes wrong in one or more of these stories.
Another result of reading so many different stories that still broadly fall in the same category is that it will inevitably lead you to notice the common threads that run through all of them, e.g. the common story dynamic of conflict between two or more characters is often replaced by the conflict between character and society. More interestingly, John Joseph Adams points out in his introduction to the anthology: “Whether or not a society is perceived as a dystopia is usually determined by one’s point of view; what one person may consider to be a horrible dystopia, another may find completely acceptable or even nigh-utopian”. The inhabitants of these broken, damaged societies have often become used to whatever miserable set of circumstances they are living in. In some cases, they are no longer even aware that things used to be different and have started considering their current lives as acceptable by default. This leads to some stories that generate a sense of discomfort so acute that it borders on the claustrophobic. The strongest stories in this collection verge on horror, although of the psychological or even existential kind rather than blood and gore. There are a few stories in Brave New Worlds that will simply stay with you forever — and whenever literature can do that to you, you know you’ve got a winner in your hands.
Brave New Worlds contains a whopping 33 stories, delivering great value for your money but making it hard to write something meaningful about every single one without ending up with an extremely long review. So instead, here are my personal favorites in the order in which they appear in the anthology:
“The Funeral” by Kate Wilhelm is one of those stories that feels as if you’re seeing a five minute glimpse of a brilliant movie that has an elaborate plot you can only guess at. You know there’s a lot going on, even if you don’t really grasp all of it. It’s also over much too soon.
“O Happy Day!” by Geoff Ryman is another stunning, claustrophobic story that focuses on a very small — and very dark — part of a much larger conflict. (Geoff Ryman actually has two stories in the anthology, which struck me as a great, confident decision on the part of the editor: both stories are excellent, so why choose one over the other?)
“Pop Squad” by Paolo Bacigalupi was (for me at least) the standout story in the author’s brilliant collection Pump Six and Other Stories, so I’m glad to see it included in this anthology. There’s a lot going on here, some of it brutally evident and some of it much more subtle, but as with all of these stories I’d rather let you discover it for yourself than describe it here in too much detail.
While these three stories all get an unqualified five stars from me, Matt Williamson’s “Sacrament” somehow outdid them all with its outrageous juxtaposition of cold-eyed, rational horror and spine-tingling beauty. There are two distinct parts to the story, and the way they combine at the end is so powerful that reading it for the first time was a stunning experience. Not for the first time when finishing a story in Brave New Worlds, I had to close the book and walk away for a second to let it all sink in. According to John Joseph Adams’ typically insightful and thoughtful introduction to the story, Matt Williamson is currently working on his first novel, and I for one am very excited to read it.
And then, towards the end, there’s “Jordan’s Waterhammer” by Joe Mastroiani, another gem with such a chilling and gorgeous conclusion that I still get chills thinking about it. In between these five superb examples of short form SF, you’ll find a collection of excellent stories, including some established classics as well as many great entries by newer authors. Even though everyone will have their favorites and their least favorites, Brave New Worlds doesn’t contain any story that’s less than excellent, which is quite rare for such a large anthology.
If you’re not convinced yet, please check out the anthology’s great companion website, where you’ll find some free sample stories (some also available in audio format) as well as fascinating short interviews with some of the stories’ authors, my favorite being Joe Mastroiani’s because it puts the story’s world in more detail and heightened my appreciation even more.
It doesn’t happen very often that you find an anthology that’s perfectly executed from start to finish, but Brave New Worlds is exactly that. The stories in this collection are science fiction in the truest sense of the word, starting from an often painful sociological premise and extrapolating it to the most private and emotional aspects of our lives. The only reasons I can think of for not liking this book would be if you have an aversion to either dystopian SF or short fiction. If you don’t fall in either of those categories, you simply won’t find a finer anthology than Brave New Worlds.
3.5 stars A very good compilation of stories exploring the them of dystopias. One warning - find some light/fluffy/happy books to read in between chunks of this book, it is just too depressing to read one after the other with no relief. Some classics, like "The Lottery" and "Minority Report", and plenty of new stuff, this is a great primer, each story exploring a different kind of dystopia. Not for the faint of heart, either.
1984 came and went without Big Brother rearing his ugly head in quite the way he did in the book; though one could say things got a little hairy during George W. Bush’s eight years of the Patriot Act and Home land Security, and yet in today’s world can you really say that you are completely free to do as you please without feeling like anybody’s watching you? Perhaps you see this world in a different light: do you use a disposable phone, screen your calls, use “incognito mode” in all your online browsing, and feel like various agencies within the government are watching you constantly, whether it’s where you’re shopping, what you’re eating, or perhaps what books you’re checking out of the library. If this is the case, you’re going to want to own a copy of Brave New Worlds, and if it’s not, well, you should read it too, because it’s a really fantastic collection of stories of a dystopian future where freedom is a whispered, secret word, not to be uttered aloud to anyone.
John Joseph Adams, bestselling editor of such great anthologies as Wastelands and The Living Dead does a fantastic job of collecting stories of dystopian worlds, covering just about the entire history of the science fiction genre. Brave New Worlds starts off with “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson – a story many of us became familiar with in high school and college, but can now be read for sheer enjoyment; to Ursula LeGuin’s unforgettable “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” – a story of a paradise where every day is a joy for its citizens, except for one child locked away in a cell in constant suffering. Many big name authors make the cut, with the likes of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and Orson Scott Card; as well as some more recent bestselling names of the genre, like Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow and Carrie Vaughan.
Some of these dystopian stories are similar, some are completely unique and surprising; all playing on the concept of having our necessary freedoms stripped away from us, leaving us hollow shells; the question is whether we choose to go along blindly and submit, or fight. Perhaps you’re wondering if there’s a story about a future where young people donate their organs to old people, or looking forward the original short story of Philip K. Dick’s “The Minority Report”; either way, Brave New Worlds will be an absolute delight for anyone who enjoys a story about a doomed future.
This is a very big book of very depressing stories. Read it in small doses.
The stories themselves are mixed, and range from classics that I'm glad to finally have a legal copy of (like Ursula le Guin's "The Ones Who Walked Away From Omelas"--any thinking, literate, even moderately leftish person should read this story at some point in their lives) to duds (Orson Scott Card is not a bad writer but his story in this collection, about an unfixable plague that reduces human life expectancy to the early-mid twenties as a biospheric reaction to what people have done to the planet, just doesn't work). Fortunately there were enough good stories from new-to-me authors to justify reading through the whole thing, front to back, in fifteen-minute lunch-break increments. "Red Card," "Amaryllis," "Dead Space for the Unexpected," "Jordan's Waterhammer" and "Resistance" were stand-outs.
Wow. Where do I start? 30 of most of the best dystopian short fiction in the English speaking world's history. Nothing less.
I normally like to review each story (or the key stories) in anthologies, but this is difficult for 30 of them, spanning nearly 500 close-printed pages. Also, I feel inadequate to comment on specific stories that are now legendary.
The worst stories were still very good. The best are unmatched. Pure and simple. These stories were more than entertaining, they were thought provoking and challenging. I haven't been intellectually challenged like this for years.
If there is any negative statement - and it isn't really a deficit, more of a warning, is that reading them straight through is being inundated with (largely) depressing situations for humanity, and notably, the protagonists in the stories. It could dampen one's spirit, while at the same time lift awareness. Fortunately this is a temporary phenomenon, but tangible indeed.
Bravo to the publisher and the stellar editor - this anthology lives up to it's industry reputation of greatness.
If you haven't read it, and you like dystopian stories, just read it. Do yourself a huge favour.
Distinctly hit-or-miss. I tend to rate anthologies more highly, though, since once you've read them through, you can go back to the good ones as many times as you want. And there are good ones in here, no doubt about that. Ursula LeGuin's The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is a beautiful statement of the utilitarian paradox. There are all the classics: Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Phillip K. Dick, and of course what's a dystopia without Kurt Vonnegut. There's even a short comic by Neil Gaiman, which you're not likely to have seen in print before. Among the good new ones, there are the depressing (The Funeral), the heartwarming (Amaryllis - yes, a dystopian anthology still has heartwarming stories), and the just plain weird (Caitlin R. Kiernan's The Pearl Diver).
That said, about half the collection is distinctly mediocre. Some of it's trite, some's more political screed than story, and a couple are just flat-out poorly written. The editor has a lot to answer for here, between the frequent typos and the insipid story introductions. (The past few anthologies I've read have led me to the conclusion that the less the editor says, the better, with a possible exception for the VanderMeers.) I'm happy to have it, because it means I can go back and read "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman or The Minority Report whenever I want to, but like most anthologies, you need to be willing to sift through some trash to get to the treasure.
I suppose if I call an anthology "brilliant" I'm actually praising the editor who compiled the selections. For it wasn't even the choice of stories that was so good, but also how they were arranged in this massive tome of dystopian tales. In almost every case, each story has some conceptual thread or theme that tenuously connects it with the previous tale. A challenging task to be sure, and even more mind-boggling with confronted with the diversity of subject matter this volume encompasses. Adams should be commended for doing a superlative job at stitching together these stories in a way that makes a clear, almost inevitable, narrative sense. So, not only are these great stories, they are also layered in a way that seems organic and almost seamless. I'm definitely interested in tracking down more thematic anthologies by this editor. If you enjoy dystopian literature this is certainly one you'll enjoy. If you love short stories, you'll be fascinating at how well constructed this anthology was built. If you love science fiction, there is a lot to sink your teeth into here. Enjoy.
I've had this sitting on my TBR list for too long (bought it years ago) so I'm glad to have finally got around to it. It's a quite well done collection. It's definitely not one to read all the way through at once as this is just bleakness and terror with ebbing and flowing waves of harrow and hell. I'd read a few and put it down for a bit but I always wanted to read more. There are some very well done stories here and I didn't expect so many to center around terrible futures centring on gender, sexuality and reproduction.
As with all collections, best done is subjective but here are a few of my favourites (your mileage may vary):
Ten With A Flag by Joseph Paul Haines (really left an impression on me) The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin O, Happy Day! by Geoff Ryman Pervert by Charles Coleman Finlay Is This Your Day to Join the Revolution? by Genevieve Valentine The Lunatics by Kim Stanley Robinson Minority Report by Philip K. Dick Just Do It by Heather Lindsley The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Recommended for speculative fiction fans & those looking to get more short fiction in.
Some of science fiction’s most iconic authors and their most famous classic stories are included in this dystopian-themed collection, as well as new talents I had never read. As with most themed anthologies, I would recommend spacing out these stories. Many of the same ideas and motifs appear repeatedly, so reading them straight through can become monotonous.
I would also recommend skipping the editor’s introduction to each story, as John Joseph Adams tends to give away too much and spoil some of the surprises.
As some other reviewers have noted, the Kindle version of this book has problems with formatting. There are repeated misspellings, missing line breaks, and incorrect punctuation. It also omits four stories from the print version due to electronic copyright issues. (These are Philip K. Dick’s magnificent novella “Minority Report”, Kurt Vonnegut’s rather outdated “Harrison Bergeron”, “Billennium” by J.G. Ballard, and “The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury.)
There is also a 2nd edition of this anthology with three additional stories (available in both print and kindle): “The Cull” by Robert Reed, “Personal Jesus” by Jennifer Pelland, and “The Perfect Match” by Ken Liu.
Below are my reviews on individual stories from the Kindle 1st edition, in order from most to least favorite:
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson – Excellent. The first classic dystopian short story. I read it 25 years ago in high school, and it still carries the same punch today.
“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin – Superb! Another often-anthologized classic story that should be required reading for everyone.
“Sacrament” by Matt Williamson—This story weaves a future society from two modern trends: commercial advertisements replacing traditional art forms and also the use of torture to fight terrorism. Very imaginative and actually plausible.!
“Pop Squad” by Paolo Bacigalupi – Set in a society where people use drugs to live forever, children have been outlawed in order to prevent overpopulation,. A special squad of policemen hunt down illegal children and execute them. This is tense sci-fi noir that explores class warfare, our obsession with long life, and post-traumatic stress. Excellently written.
“O Happy Day!” by Geoff Ryman – Tired of the wars and fighting created by males, women have taken over the government and opened concentration camps for men . This story follows a group of gay men who have been allowed to live, but they are put in charge of overseeing the gas chambers and disposing of the trainloads of corpses. This is a surprising examination of gender struggles, filtered through the analogy of Nazism, and a reminder that human nature is dark and corruptible regardless of race, sex, orientation, or ideology.
“Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn – A small fishing family must overcome discrimination in a socialistic society where income, productivity, and child-bearing are strictly regulated. This story is unique because it presents a dystopia that, really, may not seem all that bad to many people. Your mileage will vary depending on how you weigh personal freedom versus society’s responsibility to curtail overpopulation and equalize wealth for the greater good.
“The Lunatics” by Kim Stanley Robinson—An involved tale of slaves forced to mine for precious elements beneath the surface of the moon. Features highly detailed world-building.
“Jordan’s Waterhammer” by Joe Mastroianni—Another story of slaves bred to be underground miners who stage a revolt. An engaging story, but very similar in tone, theme, and plot to “Lunatics”.
“Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs” by Adam-Troy Castro—Similar to “Omelas,” the story presents an idyllic utopia, but there is a horrifying price to pay to live there. Is it really possible to appreciate a perfect society without also understanding pain and cruelty?
“Red Card” by S. L. Gilbow – Imagines a society in which randomly selected individuals are licensed to commit a single murder of anyone they choose. A fun story with a concept similar to the recent movie The Purge.
“Ten With a Flag” by Joseph Paul Haines – Prenatal testing allows the State to rate unborn babies based on their genetic potential. What sacrifices would a parent make for a baby with a perfect 10 rating?
“The Things that Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away” by Cory Doctorow—A monk who has withdrawn from the world for 16 years is forced to go outside his monastery to investigate a colleague who may have been a government spy. He finds that Homeland Security has evolved into menacing gestapo-like organization. This story does not quite hang together, but I was fascinated by the depiction of the Securitat bureaucracy, which is run similar to jihadist cells, with each cell recruited by someone higher up the food chain but then allowed to operate more or less independently.
“Geriatric Ward” by Orson Scott Card—Scientists try to find a cure for a disease that causes rapid aging and has decreased human lifespan to less than thirty years. I read this years ago but had forgotten it. It is bleak for Card but examines themes of aging, coping with grief, and confronting the inevitability of death.
“Caught in the Organ Draft” by Robert Silverberg—A young man receives his draft card, meaning he is under compulsory orders to give nonessential organs (a lung or a kidney, most probably) to an older citizen. The overt comparison to the Vietnam draft makes this story feel dated, but the author creates a thorough system that makes this future seem like it may not be very far-fetched.
“Resistance” by Tobias S. Buckell—In a democratic republic, citizens delegate voting authority to elected representatives who are supposed to represent their interests. This story posits whether computer algorithms would do a better job of analyzing our choices and voting for us, similar to how banks analyze our spending patterns and detect fraudulent purchases we would never make. And what would happen if all those computer avatars banded together to create the perfect benevolent dictator?
“Just Do It” by Heather Lindsley—A light-hearted satire about fast food companies who can create cravings in their customers through chemical advertisements.
“From Homogenous to Honey” by Neil Gaiman & Bryan Talbot—A comic/graphic short story featuring a Guy Fawkes narrator explaining how society has purged all traces of homosexuality from its culture, even going so far as to travel back in time to destroy ancient Greece and Rome. Short, but clever and memorable.
“Civilization” by Vylar Kaftan—A choose-your-own adventure story that illustrates no matter what you do, civilizations are bound to cycle through governments, revolutions, and wars. One man’s utopia is another man’s dystopia.
“Dead Space for the Unexpected” by Geoff Ryman – I think this was supposed to be a satire of modern corporate culture, and I think I was supposed to feel mild disdain or pity for the beleaguered protagonist. It did not work for me; I felt admiration instead. He scored a small political victory over a manipulative coworker, he curtailed insubordination by establishing clear objectives and reconfirming performance expectations, and he ferreted out a saboteur who was destroying the company’s internal controls. All in all, I thought he had a good day at the office. I would probably hire him.
“Auspicious Eggs” by James Morrow—In a post-global warming collapsed society, the Catholic Church holds complete sway, and the rights of the unconceived outweigh the rights of the living. A priest must administer the sacrament of terminal baptism to infants who will be infertile and thus not worth the expense of raising.
“Peter Skilling” by Alex Irvine—A man awakened 98 years after his death is confronted with a new world in which the US government is clear-cutting national forests and possession of marijuana is deemed an act of terrorism.
“’Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison – Another classic. Won the Nebula, Hugo, and Prometheus awards. Having said that, the story has always seemed rooted in a 1960’s mentality and has not aged all that well
“Arties Aren’t Stupid” by Jeremiah Tolbert—In a world where youth are genetically engineered for specific functions in life, a group of artists must deal with the unceasing addiction that drives them to Make, and society’s increasing indifference to their work.
“Is This Your Day to Join the Revolution?” by Genevieve Valentine – This dystopian society is something straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. The state is all-powerful. They use the threat of disease to scare the population and limit personal freedom, and they encourage citizens to spy on their neighbors.
“Independence Day” by Sarah Langan—A totalitarian America celebrates its 300th birthday. Plagued by pollution and terrorism, the rich who can afford private insurance live in protected bubbles, while everyone else wears iron lungs and must be kept docile through mandatory drug injections.
“The Funeral” by Kate Wilhelm—In this drab future, girls are noncitizens considered property of the government. They are raised and trained in impersonal institutions, older men exploit them for sex when they come of age, and the state decides their roles in life—be it Teacher, Doctor, Lawyer, Lady, or Breeder. This story is sufficiently overwrought and depressing, but the author left a lot of questions unanswered. I still do not know why or how this society came into existence.
“Pervert” by Charles Coleman Finlay—Sex is no longer needed for procreation. Society has moved past its “animal urges” and now everyone is either homosexual or hydrosexual (the details are bit fuzzy, but think of a petri dish as big as a swimming pool). One man is shamed and isolated when he realizes he has unnatural desires for a woman. This story bludgeons the reader with the simplistic and obvious point—straight people would feel persecuted if society did not condone their sexuality. Yes, we get it. The author completely fails to engage the more interesting questions that arise from the text. How (and why) did this culture abandon its heterosexual past? Would this process have demonstrated that sexual orientation is largely learned cultural behavior, rather than determined at birth by genetics? How could hydrosexual reproduction work? How would family structures evolve once the concept of parents became obsolete?
“Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment” by M. Rickert – Imagines a future America ruled by the religious right where the government ruthlessly tracks down women who had abortions and publicly executes them. This story is shamefully political and blatantly offensive to the millions of well-meaning people who hold pro-life views.
“The Pearl Diver” by Caitlín R. Kiernan—In a society where citizens are constantly monitored by their government and their employers, one woman receives an unauthorized email offering a chance at spiritual enlightenment. The story starts strong but ends in a mystical mess filled with an extended dream sequence and no resolution.
I'm only going to mention the shorts that I enjoyed. The first of that was the very first story:
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
A haunting tale about a village that has a peculiar yearly ritual where all the members of the town gather to pick out a name, and whoever is chosen, well, is chosen. To what? Nothing pleasant. What I interpreted from the tale is that sometimes we get so caught up in the routine of it all that no one really questions if what were doing is right. It just is what it is, what we've always done.
Red Card by S.L. Gilbow
Probably one of my favorites. In this particular dystopian future the right to kill is a law. However, its also a drawing. You don't get to decide when you are given that right, but once you have it, you carry the card for as long as you want. No one is supposed to know who has the card. Some suspect. Some dissect and talk about the reasoning or how much the killed person deserved it. Linda kills her cheating husband and then has to deal with the temporary celebrity status that killing someone gives you. A sad ending, but an interesting look at human justification. No different than the death penalty. Basically, one person deciding that you don't deserve to live and the world agreeing. Chilling.
Ten with a Flag by Joseph Paul Haines
Another one of my favorites, this one is centered on a world where you are let know in advance what type of child you are going to have and how successful he or she going to be, ahead of time. Like those tests that determine if your child is going to have an afflicting disorder. The couple in this story gets told that their son is a ten, the highest, the smartest, the most successful. They should be happy, right? But that's ten with a flag. A flag means that their is going to be something wrong. But they can't know what it is. So the decision becomes, to keep this child with great potential or not because whatever the flag signifies isn't worth the risk? Does knowing really change anything? My answer to this is, it shouldn't, unless you just have to know everything.
Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: one daughter's personal account by M. Rickert
I found this one fascinating because it has partly happened in some places in the world. In this story, women have lost most of their rights, especially their reproductive rights, and if they don't abide by the new world order, they are killed. A daughter has had a normal life up until her mother disappears and they know that she is one of those 'traitors' that needs to be hung. The daughter is angry at her mother for causing her father and her so much grief. The daughter doesn't know what she's lost, what freedom her mother had once enjoyed and so can't sympathize. Very sad story. And makes one wonder about what you're passing over to your kids, what type of world. A world with less freedom? More. About the same. None...
The Funeral by Kate Wilhelm
Here's another one where girls do not have many rights. They are given tasks and jobs and they must obey and live the life that is appointed to them, but one girl discovers through a senile old woman that there's another place where life doesn't have to be that way. Can she figure it all out in time? Fun story told through a young girl. I like how the elders twist certain jobs, to make everything that isn't what the child is supposed to be doing in life seem terrible in comparison. "You don't want riches and fame those people are miserable. And everyone knows your job (insert job here) is so much more satisfying." Oh, the lies we tell ourselves.
O Happy Day! by Geoff Ryman
This one is the opposite of the last two. Men have no rights. And the more violent ones are sent to concentration camps and killed. The only ones who don't get killed are the gays. The gays have to assist in the killing of straight men. The story's focus is on the group of men that have the terrible job of assisting in the death of other men. They have to say and do without protesting until one guy comes along and questions it all. But how much do others want to change? How much can one person do? Is it better to live miserable in an unjust world or die? Is it worth living if you're miserable? Or does one hope a change will come along? Who starts that change? Why don't you? Tragic story about being so close but having others sabotage you.
Billennium by J.G. Ballard
Overpopulation, the more people, the less space. This story takes a look at what a crowded world looks like, if you had little room to move to and fro, and your apartment was so tiny it’s basically a closet. I felt claustrophobic reading this tale. There was no room to walk or breathe, almost. And every so often more space was taken from the people. I actually thought the tale was a tad optimistic in its report of how a crowded world would even think to sync that well without chaos. But a warning tale nonetheless.
Pop Squad by Paolo Bacigalupi
In this one, the cure to old age has been invented and nobody dies. But if nobody dies that means that no one else needs to be born. It's against the law. If you break the law, your newborn, infant, toddler gets killed. Theirs a police squad specialize in getting rid of unwanted children. Do people really want to live forever? Would it really be living? Those are the questions this story asks. And isn’t one of the points of human nature to procreate, passing down genes, teaching the new the ways of life. This dystopian future had the illusion of a utopia. I enjoyed the struggles some of the mother’s faced when just wanting a little baby to hold and love is against the law. Another one of my faves.
Dead Space for the Unexpected by Geoff Ryman
Productivity at the work place and using time wisely. Here we have a stressed out boss who can’t be stressed out because his heart rate is being monitored and his skills, how to handle firing an employee, or how to best manage every second of every hour that he works. Give a whole new meaning to work being one’s life. Interestingly enough, I found his workload quite perfect in the perspective of a corporation. You get more for your buck out of your employees...
Just Do It by Heather Lindsley
What if companies could legally shoot darts at you to make you want their product. The ultimate in advertising. You get hit with a little sucker and everything in your body tells you that you just have to eat in that restaurant or buy those shoes. Works every time. But what if they wanted to take it a step further? In an age where websites monitor our buying habits is too hard to fathom a world where they could chemically induce us to want their junk? This short unnerve me because there was no escape to consumerism, and then I look around and think, well, there isn't an escape now. We just let it happen. Complain a bit, but accept.
Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonegut. Jr.
Everyone is finally equal! No one is smarter or prettier or more accomplished than you. No one talks better or has more. We are all the same. EQUAL. However, the price to pay is to dumb all the smart people down with loud chips in their brains and place bags in the faces of the pretty ones. I liked the theme and what the story was trying to say. However, I did disagree with a few points. Maybe intelligence can be measure, or can it? And Beauty certainly isn't universal. I think the entire time reading this one I kept thinking, who gets to decide who are the prettiest in the population?
Caught in the Organ Draft by Robert Silverberg
It's already known that the old decide the future of the young. They control the senate and congress and all those important positions of power, but what if the old never died. What if because they get to decide for the rest of us, they decide that the young have to donate organs to the old. An organ draft. The old live longer lives, more years of servitude, while the young get treated like cattle. Doesn't seem so far-fetch when you see the amount of young bodies whose lives get gambled with in war. They don't get to decide much now. This little tale is one to warn us that our elders don't always know best.
Of A Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs by Adam-Troy Castro
This one was bitter sweet. Imagine if you can live in paradise for nine days. The most fun and the most happy you have ever lived for nine days of dining, drinking, music, festivals, hiking...what ever you love to do, you get to do all day, every day, for nine days. Sounds perfect, right? Then comes the tenth day, and then you live through utter horror. The worse imaginable horror. Slow death, torture, rape, slaughter, bombings...the worst. The character in this story has to decide if the nine days of utter pleasure are worth the one of unimaginable pain. Personally, I think that decision is quite easy for me. No. I hate pain. All pain. And I'm pretty sure that I'd spend every second of those good nine days dreading the tenth, and so I wouldn't fully enjoy them. Others might disagree. It depends on your personal experience. If you already live a life of misery then maybe those nine days are worth the tenth. This one was a great one. Really enjoyed it.
Reviewing as I go: The lottery: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Red card: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Ten with a flag: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The ones who walk away from Omelas: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Evidence of love in a case of abandonment: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The funeral: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ O happy day: ⭐️⭐️ Pervert: ⭐️ From homogenous to honey: ⭐️⭐️ Billenium: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Amaryllis: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Pop squad: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Auspicious eggs: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Peter Skilling: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The pedestrian: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ The things that make me weak and strange get engineered anyway: ⭐️ The pearl diver: ⭐️ Dead space for the unexpected: ⭐️⭐️ Repent, Harloquin! Said the ticktockman: ⭐️⭐️ Is this your day to join the revolution?: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Independence Day:⭐️ The lunatics:⭐️⭐️⭐️ Sacrament: ⭐️ The minority report: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Just do it: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Harrison Bergeron: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Caught in the organ draft: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Geriatric ward: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Arties aren’t stupid: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Jordan’s warhammer: ⭐️⭐️ Of a slow sweet dance in the wake of temporary dogs: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Resistance: ⭐️ Civilization: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The cull: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Personal Jesus: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The perfect match: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This is an unusually good short story compilation.
It has some well known short stories I'd already read (The Lottery, The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas) and one I'd been meaning to get to (Repent Harlequin, Said the Ticktockman). And the rest of the short stories were all high quality. I didn't like all of them, but for reasons that have more to do with personal taste than quality.
Basically, I think this is one of those compilations that is actually "Picked out and obtained permission to include the best examples of this particular sub-genre".
Depending on how much you've read, this might mean that there's not much new in this anthology for you. But, I definitely had a good time. If you count "reading with a slowly growing sense of deep unease, wondering if humanity is as corrupt as these authors think we are" as a good time. I do.
The average of all ratings here is about 3.8, so I'll round it up to 4*. This was a pretty interesting anthology, with a great variety of dystopias. Some stories I really didn't care for, but others got me thinking and intrigued me.
Below a rating for all individual stories in the anthology.
1. The Lottery 2* The story doesn't really make any sense. There's a monthly lottery to decide which of the villagers is going to be stoned (to death?). I hope it's not to death, as that would decimate a town's population (especially one of about 300 people) quite quickly. I see no reason a ritual like this would ever be invented, there's no background information. It's just one instance of the lottery and that's it. Quite boring.
2. Red Card 4* Red cards are distributed at random amongst citizens, giving them the right to shoot one person without having to face the law. It seemed a bit far-fetched, but I liked the actual story. There's a pretty good twist at the end that gets you thinking as well.
3. Ten With a Flag 3* How far will technology go in helping parents to be make decisions about their pregnancies? A bit predictable, and it made me quite uncomfortable, being pregnant myself while reading. But it was written well enough.
4. The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas 2* People live in the absolutely wonderful town of Omelas - which is described incredibly vaguely - which unsurprisingly comes at a terrible cost. Didn't like the idea or the execution.
5. Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment: One Daughter's Personal Account 3* I don't know how this is "evidence of love", as the daughter seems like a complete psychopath incapable of love or any regular feelings whatsoever, but sure. Maybe in the absolute final line if the story, though it seems insincere after all which comes before. Anyway: women have been reduced to housewives and can't have abortions or run away, or they're executed. Quite basic, not developed a lot, but seems believable enough.
6. The Funeral 2.5* Some young girls are property of the state and are raised for certain roles. For as long as this one was, not an awful lot happened. The writing was deliberately vague/disjointed, so you wouldn't know exactly whose thoughts you were reading at times. I didn't like it much, but it wasn't awful.
7. O Happy Day! 3* Men have been too violent, drugging them didn't help much, so now (violent) men have been separated from women. A bit long when you consider how little really happened. I did get pulled into the story, kind of, and I could imagine what the world here was like. But the story was dragged out a bit too much and the ending was just weird.
8. Pervert 2* Two weird, gay dystopias in a row. Didn't like this one as much as the last, but at least it was short.
9. From Homogenous to Honey 1* Boring and pointless. A comic which shows how a "utopia" is achieved.
10. Amaryllis 4* This may be a dystopia, but the story is lovely and has a nice ending. Reproducing is no longer a right, but a privilege, because of massive overpopulation. Sounds like a very bleak future indeed.
11. Pop Squad 4* Absolutely hated this. It's awful, horrible, nauseating and written way too well. Almost couldn't get through it.
12. Auspicious Eggs 3* The only thing this story had in common with the last was the killing of infants, for vastly different reasons. I didn't like this happening two times in a row, but the story was alright.
13. Peter Skilling 2* Being revived 98 years in the future, only to be sentenced to death a few hours or days later. This one was a bit stupid, and quite predictable.
14. The Things That Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away 2.5* Mostly boring. The government keeps track of what you do by monitoring data streams, or having a third party do so. Protagonist gets himself in too deep through no fault of his own, really. He's just extremely uninteresting.
15. The Pearl Diver 2* I can barely remember the story two days after reading it. Didn't like the vague feeling, the long dream sequences and the lack of plot.
16. Dead Space for the Unexpected 2* Very boring office space dystopia, bland protagonist and little plot.
17. "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman 2* I absolutely hate the writing style. The story doesn't seem to make a lot of sense for the most part, basically your life gets shortened every time you are late at anything. Very silly system, can't take it seriously, didn't like the protagonist or the antagonist.
18. Is This Your Day to Join the Revolution? 3* Made me think of Covid-19 a bit. What if it were all a conspiracy, there was no disease, but there was no way to actually know there wasn't? The story is told from a woman's perspective. Sadly, she's a bit of a coward, so nothing much happens in this short story.
19. Independence Day 3* A quite depressing, but well-written, story of a girl in a future where everyone's being watched and mechanical lungs are the norm. Didn't like it, because it's depressing.
20. The Lunatics 3.5* Mine workers on the moon are hunted by an unknown entity while they are worked nearly to death to gather a precious metal. Writing style was good, characters were interesting enough and the plot was interesting. A pretty solid story, though I found the ending a bit lacking.
21. Sacrament 4* The narrator compares torture with art for a while, letting the reader know a bit about how he likes to interrogate people. Pretty good, I liked the writing style and the narrator and the world created both came across as quite realistic.
22. Just Do It 4* People's behaviour is influenced by chemical darts that are fired into them on a daily basis. The protagonist is trying to put a stop to it, or at least come up with antidotes. I really liked this one. There's a bit of romance, humour, and a solid plot with a nice little twist.
23. Caught in the Organ Draft 2.5* What if everyone's expected to donate their not strictly necessary organs to old people? Apart from the fact that this idea is absolutely ridiculous, it wasn't worked out very well. The story is a bit unfeeling; mostly just summarised how this happened and our protagonist trying to resist the "organ draft". Not a very interesting voice.
24. The Geriatric Ward 3.5* People have started ageing extremely fast for unknown reasons. Scientists are constantly working to find a cure, but it's hard when your mind and body are failing you at age 22. A bit depressing, but an interesting read. Separation therapy sounds like the worst idea ever.
25. Arties Aren't Stupid 3* People (kids?) have become specialised in both mind and body for certain types of behaviour. Arties make art, in the broad sense of the term, braniacs think of things, invent them, and thicknecks are strong. When you're not doing what you're supposed to, it apparently aches. Didn't much care for the writing style, it made the story difficult to get into for me, though it did set the tone. The plot was all right, concise, and there was a pretty solid ending.
26. Jordan's Waterhammer 3.5* People are tools, and are treated as such. If one breaks, you can try to repair it, but replacing is usually quicker. Especially when the tools are mass-produced. A slightly longer story, but it didn't get tedious. I found it quite impressive how regular human concepts were explained in this story by the men who didn't understand them. And the ending was a bit predictable, but still good.
27. Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs 4* I always feel apprehensive when a short story had such a long title, especially when it's this seemingly nonsensical as well. Thankfully, the story made more sense (as did the title, in the end), though there were quite a few typos/errors for such a short story (at least 4 that I found). The concept is basically: you live 9 days in absolute bliss, followed by one of absolute horror, and then it resets and you start again. It's a strange concept, and it's never really shown/told what people do for those 9 days (except for attending parties and having sex), but it's used effectively to tell this story.
28. Resistance 2.5* If the previous title was a too long and nonsensical, this one just feels boring and unimaginative. And that's pretty much how this short story feels to me. An AI has taken over on a space station/ship after people accidentally voted for this to happen. It's not event a malevolent AI, but some dissenters are trying to stop it nonetheless, because freedom is important and all that. Not very exciting, a bit of a shoddy resistance.
29. Civilization 3* A pretty lighthearted "choose your own adventure" to build a civilization. Shockingly, they all lead to the same "ending": a new beginning. A fun, short read, not too pessimistic.
30. The Cull 3* When you're living in space and have limited resources, it may be necessary to limit the number of people living in your colony from time to time. In this story, that responsibility falls to the doctor, who is apparently a robot or android.
31. Personal Jesus 3.5* A mildly terrifying instruction manual for "your personal Jesus", which is essentially a surveillance device implanted on its user. This one really got me thinking about the ways modern technology could already be used in pretty dystopian ways. And the jovial voice of the manual definitely doesn't make it any less scary.
32. The Perfect Match 3.5* One company has access to pretty much all of your data and follows you everywhere so it can make suggestions for where to go, what to do, who to see, and, most importantly, what to buy. It's a fairly standard digital dystopia and it doesn't get too disturbing or far-fetched, but that does make it that much closer to home. The story seems like it could happen within twenty years from now, and that gives me the creeps.
The last one was light-hearted enough to end the anthology with no bad feelings towards it. I'm glad the (to me) bad stories all appeared around the start and middle of the anthology, because that made this quite easy to get through. Would recommend to anyone who read all of this review and is curious about at least a few of the stories.
This is my third John Joseph Adams anthology, and I have to admit that I'm becoming somewhat of an addict. That said, I didn't like this one as much as the previous two. As I look at the stories individually, I don't think this is so much a selection issue as it is that dystopias are really depressing. I would recommend trying to read no more than 1 or 2 stories at a time and spacing this book out with other stories. I would say this is a solid 4.5 and after waffling a bit, I'm rounding up.
I know that these things are always based on personal taste, but my favorite stories were "The Lottery," "Red Card," "Amaryllis," "Pop Squad," "The Things That Make Me Weak and Strange Get Engineered Away," "Independence Day," "Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs," "Resistance," and "Civilization."
I just learned that the Kindle edition bled 4 short stories. I feel pretty nonplussed about that, but further poking reveals it was probably a rights issue. Sigh. (edit: Ha! Just reached the end of the book, and there's a pretty funny note about their removal). The worst part is that I haven't read any of them independently, so it would have been nice to have the opportunity. As a bit of a completest, I think I'll make the effort to track them down separately.
"Billennium" by J.G. Ballard - I found this one first. While it's awesomely claustrophobic, it's also sadly dated having been outstripped by technology. I have to imagine that the suicide rates would be wild, and I have trouble believing that with a problem this big that the government would in any way provide incentive for a larger family. Oh, and why on earth would they not just build up? 2/5
"The Pedestrian" by Ray Bradbury - It's just as dated as the previous story, but with a little more universal fear, let's say if you updated the tech from TV to internet, but again, I feel that this is a fear that demonstratively has not played out in the intervening years. 3/5
"Minority Report" by Philip K. Dick - I can't believe I haven't read this before; it's so much cooler than the movie. While I get why they updated the tech, it's much more dystopian as written. 5/5
"Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - Also awesome. Funny and a little depressing. 4/5
Passando por vários contos distópicos clássicos como The Lottery de Shirley Jackson ou The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas de Ursula K. le Guin, esta enorme antologia contem 33 histórias de universos alternativos ou universos futuros, com autores tão distintos quanto Paolo Bacigalupi ou Geoff Ryman.
De entre os vários contos alguns são, claro, banais ou esquecíveis, escolhidos provavelmente mais pelo caminho distópico distinto do que propriamente pela história isolada. Ainda assim, possui alguns dos melhores contos que li recentemente:
- Pop Squad - Paolo Bacigalupi – esta história brutal em vários sentidos relembrou-me o quanto gostei do que li anteriormente do autor. Tanto que peguei de seguida na antologia Pump Six and Other Stories, e mais recentemente em The Drowned Cities;
- Red Card – S.L. Gilbow – conto carregado de ironia em que os portadores de um cartão vermelho podem eliminar, sem qualquer necessidade de explicação, qualquer pessoa – o melhor é não tentar o destino irritando alguém no trânsito;
- Evidence of Love in a case of abandonment - M. Rickert – e se, numa sociedade ocidental, as mulheres fossem reduzidas ao papel doméstico e reprodutor, sem necessidade de opinião própria ou pensamentos muito complicados?
- O Happy Day - Geoff Ryman – seguindo-se a um acidente que levou ao aumento da testosterona masculina, a violência aumentou exponencialmente. A solução? Exterminar os homens.
- Auspicious Eggs - James Morrow – quando a máxima da sociedade é “Ide e multiplicai-vos” o valor de qualquer ser humano é reduzido à sua capacidade reprodutiva.
- Peter Skiling - Alex Irvine – a ironia de ser ressuscitado para ser responsabilizado por acções que, aquando da vida, não eram crimes;
- The Things that make me weak and strange get enginneered away – Cory Doctorow – história de uma cidade exaustivamente vigiada, em que existe um núcleo de pessoas quase inocentes, de tão protegidas, responsáveis por analisar anomalias no fluxo de dados. A história começa quando uma dessas pessoas tem de enfrentar a sociedade fora do núcleo protegido, para descobrir a origem de uma anomalia;
I really enjoyed this anthology because it was a mix of something I find interesting to consider, dystopias, and something I very much enjoy reading, great short stories. One problem I've found with some dystopian novels that I've tried to read is that I just don't want to invest a full 250-350 pages of my time into one story about a certain type of societal failing so this short story form really worked for me. I stopped reading this book for about a year because the stories are organized by dystopian themes and so I got sick of reading about food and crowding problems on Earth and so stopped reading about half way through. I picked it up again this weekend and just finished it and loved it again. I sort of think that mixing the different types of dystopic societal stories around in the book may have been a better way to organize so that a reader doesn't get bored of one theme. Overall, though, I really enjoyed it and I found some stories we'd been assigned to read in early grade school that had always stuck with me but I couldn't remember the name of (Harrison Bergeron by Hurt Vonnegut, Jr.) and so that really made my day when I'd come across those.
061213: collection of short stories some are very good, some less, probably best not to read all in a few sittings. there is always some pattern that emerges from single genre collections read in only a few sittings, familiarity that does not lead to contempt but maybe some... boredom? there is always a conceptual or emotional 'trick', and once this is known there maybe little that invites rereading. this is not only in sf and f but all genres, mystery, adventure, crime, thriller, fantasy, horror, probably genre romance, even that unspoken genre of ‘literature’... of the good stories, i already had read most, like, Ballard, Bradbury, Card, Gaiman, Le Guin, Ryman, Silverberg, Wilhelm, and of course Philip K Dick, very good sf, but only one new that immediately ‘transcends genre’, that shows what sf can do in literary terms, how sf can do something much better than mundane fiction, that i have never read before, by Adam Troy-Castro: ‘Of a sweet slow dance in the wake of temporary dogs’. one new of 35...? well i have read a lot of sf over the years (decades...) so maybe there are new ones for other readers...
Check it out from a library, but don't buy it like I did because only about 20 percent of the short stories in this anthology are actually worth reading; the rest are extremely boring and esoteric. Also, there were more spelling and grammatical mistakes in this book than in all the books I've ever read, combined. Don't know why this guy is so popular just because he can copy/paste other people's short stories and throw them all into one book without even proofreading it. I'm pretty sure I could have done better. Wasted my money on this one.
An anthology of dystopian short stories, a multitude of societies gone wrong. Where you can be killed if you have kids, if you don't have kids or if you are a kid. Where it's illegal to be normal, to be special, to make a scene, to be quiet. A mix of old and new stories, I'd read two before, "The Lottery," and "Minority Report," both worth the reread. I found myself ending the book with a new-found paranoia, perhaps I should have taken it a bit slower and spaced a few other books between.
This is truly a wonderful collection of dystopian short fiction. I had no idea that this many high quality stories of this type had even been written! There isn't a false note here, or at least not a story in a style I didn't like. I loved the organization, with each story sharing a theme with the one before and after it, gradually easing you into new ideas and themes. I'm certainly going to look for more anthologies edited by John Joseph Adams.
This is a glorious, glorious anthology. It is a lot of different Dystopian short stories combined in one big volume, and they range anywhere from classic to modern, but they're all more adult than YA. I really did enjoy pretty much all of the stories. There were only two or three I didn't completely love, but I still think really highly of the anthology as a whole. I also loved that in the back they recommend Dystopian movies and books for you to read.
I have to say I didn't like this anthology. I've read a few others by Adams and found them mediocre to moderately amusing. But this one just didn't do it for me. I started skimming through the stories very early on and I'd made it to page 150ish when I realised I was always hoping the next story was not terrible. I don't need to make time in my life for "not terrible". So I gave up.