A collection of stories about marginalized people, set in the near future.
Pause for a moment to think about everything terrible that’s going on in the United States right now, such as the rise of nationalism and the creeping dread that everything women, people of color, and LGBT folks have gained in the last 50 years could be yanked away at any moment. (No hard feelings if you chose not to imagine this.) Now, what if all of that could be…even worse? This question drives most (but not all) of the 25 stories in this collection, featuring a lineup that reads like a who’s who of current science-fiction writers, including Daniel José Older, Seanan McGuire, and Lesley Nneka Arimah, among others. Despite all the big names, there are great stories and not-so-great ones. Charlie Jane Anders’ “Bookstore at the End of America” is one of the weakest entries, in which California has seceded from the U.S., and the depiction of both countries plunges into stereotypes and stupidity within a cloying mother-daughter story. On the other hand, N.K. Jemisin’s “Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death,” about taming genetically engineered, racist police dragons, is a joy to read. Lizz Huerta’s “The Wall” is one of the few semihopeful stories: After a southern border wall was built, the United States crumbled while Mexico survived, thanks mostly to its powerful, wise women. Lastly, “Now Wait for This Week” by Alice Sola Kim deftly mixes #MeToo and Groundhog Day (just trust us) into something timely yet transcendent. Overall, readers may find the collection to be a sort of inkblot test; those who feel optimistic about the future may find stories of fighting against oppression uplifting, but for those who already feel anxious, reading how bad things could get may be a bit nauseating.
A mixed bag of topical, speculative tales.