Provocative, challenging stories that project the tech innovations of today onto the moral framework of tomorrow.

READ REVIEW

FUTURE TENSE FICTION

A diverse group of contemporary authors imagine our shared future in these speculative tales.

These 14 stories peer into a variety of futures only just visible from where we stand. Many imagine solutions to pressing contemporary emergencies (climate change, overpopulation, economic inequality) and then, in the way of all the best literature, seek out the complications in that perfect picture. In Nnedi Okorafor’s “Mother of Invention,” the Niger Delta has been transformed into a nation-sized plantation of the “innovative air-scrubbing superplant known as periwinkle grass,” which simultaneously solves the earth’s CO2 emissions problem and strikes a blow against world hunger with its versatile seeds. The only problems are the “pollen tsunamis” and the resultant deadly allergic condition that strikes the story’s protagonist in the final days of her pregnancy. In Charlie Jane Anders' “The Minnesota Diet,” the “cutting-edge 'Smart-City' of New Lincoln” is a fantasy land of predicative-software enhanced, zero-carbon-footprint urban living. But when an agricultural collapse necessitates the reprioritization of food shipments, the entire city of “midlevel computer engineers, quality-control experts, content creators, architects, marketing experts, musical theater geeks and service workers” is deemed redundant, and starvation sets in. Other stories start with our current time’s most pressing moral issues and imagine them worse. In Madeline Ashby’s “Domestic Violence,” smart homes—programmed to surveil, predict, and protect—become another tool in a domestic abuser’s arsenal. Mark Stasenko’s “Overvalued” imagines the endgame of skyrocketing college tuition costs as a complex industry of Wall Street-style investments, where the future of promising underprivileged youth is heavily leveraged on the competitive market. A standout story by Carmen Maria Machado sees a young girl exposed to the vast simultaneity of time in a fashion more lyric than the rest of the anthology’s offerings. The charming “When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis,” by Annalee Newitz, interjects both humor and hope. Science fiction has long been the great equalizer in the American literary landscape—capable of imagining more inclusive futures even as it struggles to represent them equitably on its pages. Because of the diversity of its authorship, this anthology does more than imagine what the world might be like if all of our perspectives were included. Instead, it moves past the picture of representation to a clear, uncompromising, imaginative look at just what it is we are all included in.

Provocative, challenging stories that project the tech innovations of today onto the moral framework of tomorrow.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-944700-95-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Unnamed Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

more