‘A People’s Future of the United States’ is a collection of 25 various short stories, all of which are speculative fiction depicting the possible future of the USA with a fictional sense of imagination. All of these stories are quite different and range in genres including romance, fantasy, science fiction and even thriller and mystery stories. These are very interesting because each author has a totally different world, characters and plot. Another really good thing about this book is that it features a lot of representation of many minorities and groups of people who aren’t often accurately portrayed in lots of media.
List of contributing authors:
Charlie Jane Anders, A Merc. Rusted, Lizz Huerta, Maria Dahuana Headley, Malka Older, Sam J. Miller, Tananarive Due, Ashok K. Banker, Omar el Akkad, Daniel José Older, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Justina Ireland, Violent Allen, Gabby Rivera, Tobias S. Buckell, Hugh Howey, Jamie Ford, G. Willow Wilson, N. K. Jemisin, Charles Yu, Kai Chen Thom, Daniel H. Wison, Catherynne M. Valente, Seanan McGuire and Alice Sola Kim.
I give this book 4.5 stars (out of five). This book was very, very interesting to read, mainly because of the many different perspectives and ideas in all the different stories. These are all works of speculative fiction about the future of the United States and by extension the world, this is a very interesting topic especially when combined with fiction. There are no limits and I really enjoyed reading 25 different takes on what could happen in the future. Some things that I found to be especially interesting were the ways different authors used world building and characterization to present their version of the future and also the different formats used (some people used News articles, stories that were very explanatory or first person). There was a lot of variety and seeing what everyone did differently was super cool.
I’m going to do a short summary of the plot of each story combined with my comments specific to that one, then have another general conclusion. (note the capitalization is all me , in order). There will be spoilers in all of these most likely. There is some mature language and scenes throughout this book, although it depends on the story.
The Bookstore at the End of America By: Charlie Jane Anders
This story is about a bookstore called The First and Last Page, that sits on the border between California and America. It’s run by Molly, who tries very hard to keep open her business and sell to people on both sides of the border. Molly also has a daughter named Phoebe. Overall this story explains what it’s like to be a parent and details Phoebe’s story, while also highlighting and explaining the tensions between both sides as a new war starts.
This short story has a great premise and lots of interesting characters and details, like the love triangle Phoebe is in. I thought there was really good world building without outright having to explain everything to the reader, the same goes for the advanced technology-Molly doesn’t explain it but by the way she interacts with it and uses things are pretty explanatory. I really liked the idea of the United States splitting into two separate countries in the future because as of now in 2020 the country is very divided and it would make sense of people/states to split off based on their views. There was a pretty big difference between the two sides, one being more conservative, while the other is more progressive but they both have flaws. I really liked how in the end despite the two countries going to war the actual people (citizens) were able to come together in the library and bound over books.
Our Aim is not to Die By: A Merc. Rusted
This takes place in a future America where everything is strictly regulated by the government, there’s cameras and surveillance everywhere, they are tracking you and you will get in trouble if you don’t/aren’t what they find acceptable. For example, they are more likely to discriminate against women and people of colour (anyone who isn’t white) and other things like identifying as any gender that isn’t male or female or not identifying as heterosexual are just straight up illegal. The story is about someone named Sua and their friend Maya, together they help kick start the revolution. They do this by assisting a powerful AI (with people behind it, called Purge) that’s overtaking the government or working towards it, in exchange for saving people Sua sacrifices themselves by getting arrested and gets Purge closer to their goal. The revolution begins.
The future showed it this story is very disturbing from all the rules and things made illegal to the extreme monitoring and controlling government, it all seems to possible. It’s kind of sad that all the things people aren’t allowed to be (neurodivergent, coloured, LGBTQ+, etc) are all just extremes of the discrimination we still see today, not just in America but everywhere. I was really impressed by this story, it was very good and I honestly loved it. I was happy to see the main character was a non-binary autistic person and that there were other characters with unique pronouns. I liked the Sua and Caspian used each other as a cover to act straight when in reality both of them were not, it’s smart and it’s almost like an allied act of rebellion. No one should have to fight just for the right to be who they are, but god damn it they did that great here. I loved that the main tool fighting the government was an AI, although I think I would’ve liked it a bit better if it was a group of people, and the ending was amazing. The start of the revolution was very well done, empowering and inspiring-Sua took a huge risk for the greater good and to help everyone else like them and I really admire that.
The Wall By: Lizz Huerta
I’ll be honest, this story was pretty confusing and there were many times when I didn’t fully know what was going on. I think this is just like when the authors don’t fully explain things and rely on context for the readers to understand but with too many things at once. If you don’t explain at least a few aspects of his fictional future then I can’t understand what’s happening. Because of this my understanding of the story isn’t great. There were some parts I liked and understood but most of it was confusing for me.
In a pretty general overview of this story it centers around people living in Mexico after there were really were walls put up and there’s also futuristic magic and technology. The people there are fighting back against the inhumane military tactics the Americans are now using, including literally brainwashing their soldiers. I liked the main character and how it switched between flashbacks and the present, the ending was also very good but I wish there was more explanation and information especially as to what happened to the USA.
Read after Burning By: Maria Dahuana Headley
This is set in a dystopian future of America, it focuses on librarians who are forced to live inside their libraries and basements and make books out of different materials because they’re being destroyed by the government. At this time in America no one had any rights or were very safe, everything was up in the air and most people were just trying to survive. The main character Enry was born after everything changed and she grew up at the library, spending most of her time learning and staying inside. (Spoiler warning, skip the rest of this paragraph). The main story starts when Enry’s dad dies, after this many of the librarians are discovered and arrested for not doing exactly what the government was telling them to, and the librarian’s children and the head librarian Needle (who also helped raise Enry) leading went to fight the oppressors. They use words, poems and stories to cast spells, to create tattoos and to use magic. They Read After Burning and win.
This short story was definitely one of my favourites out of this entire book and if this was a full length novel I totally would’ve read and enjoyed that too! I would 100% have loved to read more and see more about the world this story is set in, the characters and what happens next. Although the length of the story fit what was shown very well. My favourite thing about this is that it’s very ominous but also meaningful, we (as the readers) may not know why the characters getting tattoos is very significant but it still makes sense and totally seems like the right thing to do.
There were amazing descriptions and poetic use of words throughout, which resulted in some amazing lines and parts. I really loved the idea of words and stories being magic and librarians being the ones to fight back against the military power controlling them. I like that it sometimes addresses the reader directly (as “You”), that it’s a retelling of this story from when the main character was young (so you know she survived) and the idea of the main character being born after the end of America and things started going downhill so she didn’t know what it was like before and she’s fighting for the freedom, opportunity and life that she never got. The magic was very, very cool and the last scene/ending was my favourite part and amazing.
Chapter 5: Disruption and Continuity (excerpted) By: Malka Older
This one is news reporting in the future of the digital age, through these notes and articles (that appear to form something almost like a textbook) we get to learn about what has happened to the United States. Spoiler alert: it isn’t great.
Some things I found interesting are that it really focused on the online future and not so much as things that happened offline and that it showed people having more control over politics, there’s also something like the Matrix in here or similar to the world of Sword Art Online (if you take out the part where everyone gets stuck in the game). I thought it was good that this story didn’t jump too far ahead into the future so the world was still recognizable. I liked how people were referred to by their @’s or screen names and the use of the word “memeorgaphy.” The footnotes were a nice detail that provided extra information and made it seem more realistic.
It was Saturday night, I guess that makes it all right By; Sam J. Miller
Warning this story is a bit more mature than most of the others, because there is lots of swearing and also sex scenes. The main character is a gay guy (named Caul) who technically works for the government, although he has nothing but resentment for them. He and his boss Sid work installing new cameras and tracking systems (“planting the seeds of our own oppression”). They’re in a new city and Caul goes looking for hookups, but after he finds it something weird happens. He gets taken somewhere mentally and the rest of the story is him trying to figure that out while also grappling with the idea of power and who deserves it.
I really liked how this focused on the main character like a typical novel would instead of the futuristic setting. I also loved how we (the readers) were told about new restrictions and laws from the government not even directly but more by being shown how those rules affect the citizens. For example, Caul and Sid could no longer listen to one of their favourite artists because it was put on the banned list.
Attachment Disorder By: Tananarive Due
In this speculative future there has been another plague, and humans survived but their humanity didn’t. The story is shown from the perspective of one of the people who were infected and lived, they have a specific region where they can live but because of public concern the government is trying to get them back into prison like living conditions. This follows specifically Nayima (a sixty year old woman) and her daughter trying to get to safety. It’s very much about whether it’s better to let yourself be controlled and physically safe or to rebel and stay true to yourself even if it means putting yourself in danger.
I appreciated that this specifically said where and which year the events of the story were taking place in. This showed and built the relationships between characters very well and nearly perfectly portrayed the lengths the government/people in power will go to control and hurt other people (which could easily be you, if you end up on their bad side). I also liked the futuristic technology that was a lot more advanced than anything we have today but also not too unimaginable, and that there was an older main character (since lots of stories tend to be from the perspective of younger people).
By his Bootstraps By: Ashok K. Banker
This story focuses on the President (Trump or similar), they are horrified when they are interrupted by people they’ve never seen before. It seems that a conspiracy hatched by the president and other higher ups in the government failed. The goal was to Make America Great Again, by using time manipulation to change people’s genetics. They altered the water so that when people drank it it would change them to who they would’ve been if there was never any immigration into the USA. The expected outcome was for the population of America to become entirely white and normal and just how the president wanted. But that isn’t what happened since the Europeans also count as immigrants. So when it was released everyone changed and the people of America became a lot more diverse (not just ethnicity/race also gender, sexualities, etc) and predominantly first nation/native Americans. This also changed history as it involved time manipulation as well, so that also changed the history of the entire world.
The main story is when the secret service has to confront the President, he doesn’t recognize them and insists that they’re enemies or at least different people. As they explain what happened to him they also subtly give him water, after he drinks it he realizes that he’s about to change to (the reason he hadn’t before is because he only ever drank soda or other drinks not just water).
This was one of my favourite stories out of this entire book, mainly because it was very funny, interesting, entertaining and original. I’d never read anything like it before and I loved it! I also liked that the president portrayed seemed to be either Trump or a very similar president, which was a really funny interpretation. It’s very funny to see a character based on/similar to Trump try to grasp that his country is diverse and that he’s suddenly the first white president (instead of that being normal).
Riverbed By: Omar el Akkad
This story tells of a future America where the racial tensions and discrimination against minorities escalates and grows until there’s straight up laws against certain types of people. The main character is a female Muslim doctor who’s traveling back into America from Canada to get her brother’s things from an old containment facility. We learn through flashbacks that despite her and her family being American they were taken to a containment center and kept there with other Muslim people until they were eventually released (with nowhere to go) by the government. During the time they were trapped inhumanely there her brother escaped and died a state or two over afterwards. Now the facility is a museum and the world is different.
I thought the way they showed how much time has passed/how far into the future this story takes place was really good, because they show that the value of currency has changed and the technology we use now is seen as very old. I liked how they showcased racial injustices and how they actively affect people through flashbacks of the main character’s life. This uses specific and personal storytelling to also tell the story of what happened to the nation. The line, “This country is like a man trying to describe a burning building without using the word Fire,” was also very good and humorous.
What Maya found there By: Daniel José Older
This story takes place in a very interesting future, the world hasn’t ended yet and everything isn’t totally different but it’s clear that things have changed. It centers around the main character Maya, she’s traveling to New York and visiting an old friend from school (Tristan). She’s a scientist and she’s been working on new important research for genetic mutation and manipulation (we learn this information through flashbacks and things they think/says). She’s there to retrieve and destroy some of her research that was left with Tristan. The main problem Maya faces is that the government is trying to take and weaponize her research to make something very dangerous that can alter people’s genetics and make hybrid creatures. This is very dangerous and the government is corrupt and will most likely misuse it (similarly to nuclear weapons, it’s the type of thing you wouldn’t want anyone to have sole control over). That’s the basis of the plot, if you don’t mind spoilers you can keep reading to hear about the twist. The big plot twist is that Tristan isn’t entirely on her side, he’s working for the government and there’s someone coming there to stop and probably kill her. He doesn’t do anything to help or stop her as Maya rushes around to try the research, protect herself and escape to destroy it. I’ll spare the details of the monstrous creature that shows up and how Maya defeats it, but she gets away and destroys the research and in the end she does everything she can do to spite the inhumane and corrupt government.
I appreciate that this story wasn’t set too far into the future, the world was still recognizable and Trump was still around and the cause of trouble (which he won’t hopefully be able to do in real life). This focused on the sci-fi or technological aspects, I thought the technological advancements in science and inventions were really interesting. I also loved that this didn’t only include heterosexual relationships and showed diversity.
I really liked the main character Maya, the story focuses on her perspective, experiences and past-which I personally liked a lot because we were able to get to know and have more background information for who she is and what’s going on.
The Referendum By: Lesley Nneka Arimah
This one focuses on racism against minorities, things that are prominent today have only escalated as time goes on. In this future nearly three million people were deported from the United States after the president ordered that everyone with a dual citizenship choose only one country. Everyone who did not choose the US were labeled unloyal and then deported. This is one example of how racist people were in power and then made laws and enforced rules to punish people for things they can’t control (race, ethnicity, skin colour, etc). Basically racially motivated laws become less and less reasonable until there’s literally talk of slavery being reinstated. This story follows members of a secret resistance and what their life is like.
This was a really good story and it did a great job of showing the inequality and how quickly things could escalate. There were times when the main character was in public and when she bumped into a white person they nearly get into trouble and the cops are nearly called on the main characters for being too loud in their own home (literally just talking loudly). These events don’t even take place too far into the future as some of the earliest events mentioned are in around 2025, which is pretty concerning if anything like this could actually happen (let’s not let that happen, or tolerate racial divides-not just in the United States).
Calendar Girls By: Justina Ireland
This focuses on the discrimination against women through sexist laws and systems. In this future along with many other unfair regulations abortions and contraception are made illegal all around the United States. The main character (Alyssa) is a young girl who is literally a dealer for condoms, birth control and other methods of contraception. The story follows her as she gets caught and taken to the senator’s house, he offers her a deal to get out of the charges. She’d have to take his daughter to a certain place so that she can safely get an abortion (something that’s illegal for everyone else). Alyssa accepts this deal but there’s a plot twist, I won’t spoil it but all you need to know is that the ending is amazing.
This story is great and it’s laid out in a really smart way because of the way and times that we’re given information and backstory. It’s very interesting and entertaining to read, while I was reading it the plot just kept thickening and I was always on the edge of my seat. It’s a great read, it has an amazing ending and I loved the main character’s laid back attitude. I liked that there was a female based badass resistance group and I sadly thought it was scarily realistic that a senator would want the harmful laws they implemented to not apply to them and their family (and be willing to use shady methods to have that exception).
The synapse will free us from ourselves By: Violent Allen (spoilers throughout)
This story is about a group of people who run something called the synapse, it a simulation that is made to “fix” people who aren’t heterosexual, it’s supposed to be good for them. The main character is named Daniel and he has friends Xavier and Dora (who he thinks might be his girlfriend). Daniel is working on Dante and he’s trying to get him to fall in love with (part of the simulation) Dahlia, but it isn’t going very well because he always figures out he is in a simulation. Everyone here also has a subject they’re trying to make straight.
Everything changes one night when Daniel and Xavier sneak out of their dormitories and meet up, it’s hard for them to make their subjects fall in love when they’ve never been in love. So, to see what it’s like they kiss. This, other failures with his subject and strange occurrences around the facility lead Daniel to discovering something: They are being set up to fail because it’s making them hate the queer people in the simulations, it’s making them hate the idea of being queer and themselves. Because they are in the synapse and there are other people controlling them. They think they’re the ones who run the synapse but in reality they’re the ones who are a part of it because they are/were queer or gay and not straight.
It isn’t Daniel or Dante (they’re the same person) who first try to remember, it’s Xaiver or Javi during lunch, he has to try very hard to remember the words in Spanish but when he does he blurts out, “ I love you Daniel (Te amo). And they remember, they remember who they were and who they love and they see the engineers, multiple versions of their boss, coming in and trying to stop them. All around the cafeteria people remember, and when Izzy (who used to be known as Dora) yells, “F*cking riot!” they do.
I also really liked how they showed Daniel forgetting things and then remembering, like every now and then he’d refer to Xavier as Javi before he even fully remembered. And at the end when all the names switched back to their actual names it was very cool to see from Daniel/Dante remembering in real time.
My only slight problem with this story was that it does get confusing and scary at times but that’s understandable for what this story is. It’s like the Matrix except even more mind blowing and trippy, it’s literally insane and I went through an entire mental journey while reading this. It has one of the most interesting concepts out of this whole book (no shade, but it’s in my top two). It was really, really good but also very scary, especially as a member of the minority they were trying to “fix”. One detail I noticed was that at the beginning nothing outright said the main character’s gender so when he started interacting with the other characters at first it was sort of cool to see that without gender stereotypes or expectations (at first I thought he was a girl). Another cool detail is that all the characters who originally thought they were running the synapse but were actually just a part of it all repeated the same phrases or sentences over and over again to try and forget or convince themselves, things like “I am a good person,” “This is a good job,” “I am helping people,” etc. This was sort of unsettling, especially when we (the readers) found out it was everyone who did this and not just the main character. The ending was also amazing and really inspiring, I loved it and I thought it was the perfect ending for such a complicated story.
0.1 By: Gabby Rivera
This is set in a future where after a virus sweeps through the world lots of people die and everyone is unable to have children. The main story follows the first couple to be able to get pregnant and have a child after this virus. They have an agreement with the equivalent of the government but they also want to have some freedom and privacy, because everyone in their community is counting on this baby being born and living. This also jumps around and shows flashbacks and backstory for the main characters.
This story was surprisingly emotional, I was unprepared for all the feelings. The title 0.1 refers to the child because they’re the first new baby. I liked that it switched point of views and times,, and when it did it clearly stated when things were happening (like what year it took place in, etc). This features deaf, queer, non-binary and other LGBTQ+ characters, so there is lots of representation and diversity. I also really liked that at the end there was a section written from the child’s perspective years after the rest of the story, it was good to see what happened to them.
The Blindfold By; Tobias S. Buckell
In this short story the American court system has undergone one major change, because of the natural advantage of white males in the system they changed it so everyone would be presented in court with a random race and gender. (The reason this system change wasn’t very effective was because there was still racial injustices and differences in rulings, it was more random but it was still unfair. I think everyone should’ve been presented the same to make things more equal). The main character is a hacker who is hacking into the system to try and make sure a client gets presented as a white male, so they have a better chance in court. But when they start hacking it they’re traced and the people on the other side are Russian agencies, they get his real information and he is forced to destroy the laptop he used for hacking and flee his apartment. The rest of story is more of a commentary on racism and how even this system change didn’t really change anything.
This was very good and it had a great premise. I liked the small detail that the main character was ‘You’ instead of ‘I’ so it was kind of like if you were in the shoes of the main character instead of just reading about them. The main character was able to showcase the racial injustice just by being biracial but looking more white then black. Going off of the information that he’s biracial everyone assumed he was black, so even when they saw him they didn’t realize he could be the person they’re looking for because his skin colour didn’t match up. The most meaningful part was when he thought about all the things that would be different in their life if their genetics had worked out differently and their skin colour was darker. This part also highlights why racism and colourism isn’t logical to begin with.
No Algorithms in the world By: Hugh Howey
In this story most countries switch to a communist system and eventually the United States does too. It follows the main character and his Dad, who is kind of old fashioned and doesn’t like the new communist society. He still works a job and thinks everyone who doesn’t and accepts the system is a dirty communist. The main point is explaining why the main character disagrees with his father and how he tells him that he is quitting his job and spending more time with his growing family. It really focuses on the relationship between the two characters and their varying views.
This story features very interesting futuristic technology and I’m glad that most of it was never explained and just uses context to show how things work, and despite all of this some of the characters still rely on Google for everything. The Dad’s hate of minorities and people who are different from them shows how lots of Americans think today and why that’s flawed. Overall I thought this story was interesting and raised good points about hate and change.
Esperanto By: Jamie Ford
This story takes place in a physical simulation (it’s a real palace but it’s manipulated to appear differently then it really is to the residents) and it changed people’s perception of reality. We follow the main character as she comes to Esperanto, meets August and they fall into something like love before the ending. I won’t explicitly spoil the ending, but it was very good despite being sad.
I really appreciated that the main relationship was between two women, and how quickly they became close and attached to each other. Seeing the ever changing definitions of beauty throughout the story (as the main character experienced new things) was also very interesting. The ending was good because although it was sad and imperfect the main character finally felt accepted there and started seeing Esperanto as Home.
ROME By: G. Willow Wilson
This story is set in an unfortunate future, lots of things are the same as now but many things are different as well. People voted to stop paying taxes to the government and lost community services like Firefighters and there was a stock market crash. (Spoiler warning) The main focus of the story is on Fletcher (the main character) and his classmates as they’re about to take a very important final exam but there’s a fire steadily approaching them. Fletcher is dyslexic and he does everything he can to save the others, let them finish their tests and get everyone out safely. In the end he’s the only one with major injuries.
I thought it was a good way to show how the political changes affect individual people and showing the relationships and attraction between characters. I don’t really understand the title’s connection to the story, as it seems to just be based on an advertising sign for Promenade that had burned out to only read ‘Rome’. I think this could be symbolism for how society has burned out and the connection to fire, but I’m unsure and at first it seemed kind of random.
Give me Cornbread or Give me death By: N. K. Jemisin
This story is set in a future where the government is something called the Towers, and people are divided up into villages. The Towers are targeting and trying to kill and destroy everything and all the people. This focuses on one of the communities that was targeted with weaponized dragons, but the people were able to outsmart them by feeding the dragons other vegetable based foods and conditioning to liking that. The Towers tried to counter them by banning certain types of vegetables to the point that they were running out of food to eat. But through alliances and people helping each other they were able to prevail and the ending is the people and the dragons trying to fight the Towers and trying to take them down.
I liked that at one point they censored the word God so it said “G*d” and obviously there were dragons so that was very, very cool. The ending was very good and empowering because it ends on the visualization of many people (mainly black women) riding dragons and on their way to take down the government that was trying to kill them, so it’s pretty powerful.
Good News Bad News By: Charles Yu
This isn’t exactly a story but it tells a very, very interesting story through each separate part, story and segment. This is a news reporting publication from the future and it reports news that is so ridiculously advanced and far into the future that it seems humorous. This is a very smart way to present information and give the reader insight on what news people would be reading. I really loved this and especially the ending and how it ties into the title and story overall. There’s also really good world building even though it isn’t even one coherent story. This one definitely made me think “wtf?” multiple times while reading it but with good reason, fair warning this is a bit bizarre. The main on-going story is one about an issue or racist robots, this is the only story with lots of follow ups and continuations all other reports only have follow-ups if something has to be corrected. Although this seems very far into the future with the news it is reporting it still has lots of the same issues as our world now, like racism, climate change, etc. Some important headlines to note are:
Racist Robots recalled by Manufacturer
First refugee families settle on the moon
Representative of Sentient Trees to United Nations
Corporate persons now outnumber natural 10000000000000:1
Scientists confirm: We’re living in a simulation
Correction: The results showing that we’re living in a simulation was in fact a simulation itself
Amazongoogleface wants to merge with Disneyapplesoft
Teleportation injuries down 11% this year
Weather today and the next ten days: Hot. (in varying extremes)
Women reach income equality with men for the first time ever (in the United States)
“If nothing is real, then everything is.”
What you Sow By: Kai Chen Thom
In this speculated future there has been a deadly virus spreading through humanity called the Undreaming, it stops you from being able to sleep and/or dream (this isn’t explicitly explained but that’s my understanding from reading this). Along with this there’s another race, one that used to live separately from humans but was integrated called Celestials. Their blood (Ichor) is a type of cure or preventative measure for the Undreaming. The main character Yun is a Celestial but when she was born to humans (it was old genes) and they found out when she was a kid so they made her take pills to stop the process of fully developing into one. Now, she only has a few patches of scales and oddities instead of looking like a typical Celestial. Yun works at a clinic to help people who recently contracted the Undreaming.
The next very interesting part of this story is when Yun goes with her boss to get a surgery and she starts talking about an old leader of the Celestials (formerly called Twice-Blessed), Empusa. She tells Yun all about their history and how Empusa led them in a resistance, how she was the first Celestial to fly and breathe fire in centuries but she died. And Yun looks exactly like her and she discovers she has similar special abilities.
Yun’s boyfriend Michael was one of the scientists working on a cure/vaccine for the Undreaming, he participated in one of the trials but it went wrong. So now at night when he can’t sleep he asks Yun for Ichor to help him and he’s very demanding and manipulative. In the end Yun decides to stop letting herself be controlled (by anyone), stops taking her pills, kicks her boyfriend out, breathes fire while yelling at him and then sleeps and dreams of memories of Empusa and future possibilities.
This one was very, very good, it had very good world building and a very interesting premise. I particularly really liked the main character and how it portrayed cycles and routine, to show that Yun does the same thing every morning, it literally used the same words to describe the same thing. It’s one of the only stories in here that made me really want to know more. If this was a full length novel I definitely would’ve read all of it. Most of the other stories fit their small size/word count but I thought this one would’ve been better as a longer story, because I wanted to see more of the world where it takes place and know more about the characters and history. Specifically there seemed to be a lot more lore surrounding Yun and an older god type figure, which was super cool and I wish it was explored more within the story instead of just towards the end. That being said, I did really love the ending but I wish I could’ve kept reading farther as well. Also there was an interesting detail where lots of the sentences didn’t have capitalization, I’m not entirely sure why but it was a very interesting stylistic choice and it helped this story stand out.
A History of Barbed wire By: Daniel H. Wison
This takes place in a barren and rough future, the main character is a guard who manages the border around a protected community of Native Americans. It’s become one of the safest places to be so lots of people are trying to seek their way in. The main story is about a young boy the main character finds dead in the barbed wire and him following up and finding his parents (and whatever lead up to his death).
I thought this story had a great title, very good worldbuilding and an interesting use of language and slang words (like new slang from the future that doesn’t make a lot of sense now). I also thought it was interesting that amongst all their other more advanced technology they were still commonly using barbed wire to keep people out/away. The ending was very open and left for interpretation, you get to decide what you think will happen next but overall it’s pretty sad.
The Sun in Exile By: Catherynne M. Valente
The main premise of this story is that the leader of a big portion of society decided to ignore the extreme global warning and instead act like they’re stuck in an eternal winter. Basically it gets dangerously hot on Earth and the people are busy acting like they’re in a snow storm. Eventually the leader tries to put the Sun on trial for treason because it is no longer doing it’s job of keeping them warm. (Spoiler warning) The main character’s grandfather was the lawyer selected to represent the Sun and during the trial he had no choice but try to resort to the truth; that the Sun can be guilty of not doing it’s job when it is extremely hot and has been for months. The grandfather is executed and the leader wins the trial.
This one is really, really weird, even just form the first sentence you can tell it’s kind of crazy. The opening was really interesting, hooking and ominous looking. I thought it was kind of weird that if they were going to ignore their problem anyways that they made up a whole different problem, which is kind of confusing and I didn’t really follow that logically. But I also really liked that this was a retelling of the story, the main character’s grandfather was the person who was an active part of the story not them themselves, I thought that was a nice detail. The ending was very surprising and I loved the grandfather but he died. I kind of wonder what lead up to such a large community of people believing in and following one figure (almost like a huge cult).
Harmony By: Seanan McGuire
This story focuses on homophobia, discrimination based on sexual orientation and other discrimination generally. The main characters are a lesbian couple (although one of them is actually bisexual) who move into a supposedly perfect and accepting place but straight people and people who are a part of other majorities still have big advantages. The main point is new endings and beginnings, when they weren’t accepted as equals in the premade community they decided to leave and buy their own town-where they make a place where people of every kind will be truly accepted and not just tolerated.
There was lots of representation and diversity which makes this even better because of what this is about, there’s lesbian couples, gay couples and even polyamorous relationships. This story was really good and the characters specifically were very well written.
Now wait for this week By: Alice Sola Kim
This story is about a women named Bonnie who gets stuck in a time-loop of the week leading up to her birthday, she’s living the same week over and over again but no one else remembers. This is told from the perspective of her roommate who just sees Bonnie acting strange but only understands in the loops where she explains it. Aside from telling the story of how Bonnie handles her birthday in 13 different loops (but we (the readers) know that Bonnie really went through many, many more loops), this story also focuses on the sexual assault and harassment of women by men. Many of the characters, including the main one, have firsthand accounts and experiences with assault, harassment and even rape. And the overall story and message that is being shared within this story of getting stuck in a time loop is about all the injustices women face and how men can keep getting away with outrageous things. This message is seen in many parts throughout the story but it’s most prominent in the ending when the main character is finally going to get the truth and punishment for their abuser.
This story is by far the longest one in this entire collection of short stories but it’s also very good. It can get a bit confused though, as most things involving time travel and time loops do. I loved this story, it could be both very funny and very sad at different points but it was great overall.
Something I’ve noticed while reading all these short stories is that there is generally a lot more diversity amongst the characters. In full length novels there is often lots of diversity and variety of characters in certain books, but overall it’s still not great. In these short stories I was never disappointed by a lack of representation, unique characters and other great details.