Saturday, September 15, 2012

Diverse Energies - Edited by Tobias S. Buckell and Joe Monti

First of course I must thank Netgalley and Lee and Low Books for allowing me to read the egalley of this book in August.  I was really excited to read this, as I really do love dystopian books, and this was really touted as a book of short dystopian stories.  And it is.  The "Diverse" in the title, stands for the fact that the characters in these stories are not just "white", heterosexual, "normal" book characters.  So I understand why they wanted to do that.  It is made up of 11 stories.  Some I liked better than others.  I will go through and give a quick review of each story.
1.  The Last Day by Ellen Oh - I know it's supposed to be a future setting, but what happens in it really makes me think back to Hiroshima, and almost sounded to me like it was a retelling of that story in a future setting.  I wasn't a huge fan of it.
2.  Freshee's Frogurt by Daniel H. Wilson - This was not new to me, and won't be to anyone who read Robopocalypse.  It is a part of that book.  So it's good, but I skipped it because I'd already read it, and it wasn't any different than from before, at least not that I could tell.
3.  Uncertainty Principle by K. Tempest Bradford - This was a bit of a time travel novel.  The main character  noticed things would change around her, but no one else seemed to notice.  Till one day her parents were gone, and she wanted them back.  I kind of liked the story.  Only I got a bit confused about what all was happening at the end.  I think when I have time, or when the book is actually published, I'll have to go back and take another look at this story.
4.  Pattern Recognition by Ken Liu - This is set in China, and I think is somewhat about all the kids that are abandoned or the fact that there are so many children.  But anyway, boys and girls have been brought to this school, saved supposedly by a Dr. that uses their ability to notice patterns in things to solve problems.  So they play these "games" and by solving these problems or playing, they help Dr. Gau, who tells them that outside the walls that they are inside of parents would strangle their kids for fear of not enough food, or kill their daughters because they weren't boys.  He said that inside it was clean and safe for them.  Of course kids will question things, and they do, and in a way, it reminds me of Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix.  I liked this story, although the end was a bit rushed.  I'd like to see it fleshed out a bit.
5.  Gods of Dimming Light by Greg Van Eekhout - This is a cold futuristic world.  Many people are out of work, and don't have money for food, or electricity, such as our main character.  And so he has seen a flier for a medical study.  He decides to go.  The office is full of these beautiful women.  When he passes the test to where he is going to get a "reward" the flier said was $1000, he is sent back to where he now finds out these women might be a bit crazy.  They believe they are valkyries, and that Edward's DNA shows him to be a possible one as well.  Which he doesn't think works, as he is a Muslim, or his father is, and he was born in Indonesia.  Interesting story, not really what I'd call dystopian exactly though.
6.  Next Door by Rahul Kanakia - In this future world, the people with money have become "plugged in" to their virtual implants, so they could spend time in worlds they wanted to be in, rather than what happened around them, even in their own houses.  So other people live in the garages, or even in the actual houses!  Aakash is our main character, and he lives with his mom and two younger brothers.  In a garage, with bed bugs.  Makes my skin itch just thinking about the story again.  Aakash and his boyfriend are always going out looking for other homes that they can move their families to.  Hopefully ones without bedbugs.  They wind up as part of a crime ring, with the owner of the house Aakash lives in the garage of.  Good story, interesting story!
7.  Good Girl by Malinda Lo - In this story we have a girl who just wants to find where her brother disappeared.  If he went into the Tunnels.  She goes to ask one of the people who she knows is from the Tunnels to check around for her.  She has to pay, but can't afford the full price the girl asks for, so has to offer to feed her from the restaurant where her mother works in Chinatown.  This leads to an interesting relationship, where "Kyle", our main character begins to feel an interest in Nix, the girl who is somewhat helping her to find her brother.  In this future, the government says that "mixing races" causes genetic diseases, and wants everyone to follow a "birth" plan of when to have babies, and who to have them with.  This is more of a dystopian situation to me than some of the others.
8.  A Pocket Full of Dharma by Paolo Bacigalupi - This is one of my favorite stories.  Imagine a future where a building can be created out of living material?  Just amazing that alone!  Wang Jun is our main character and he lives in China.  But that isn't all that is amazing.  Wang Jun is a beggar, he must beg for money to even get food or other things.  And one day he is sent on a mission to deliver a small cube to someone.  When that person doesn't show up to pick it up, he leaves.  He wants to know what the cube is, has an idea it is some kind of computer chip, and takes it to a person he knows.  They put it in a machine, and find out it is the Dalai Lama!  Who went to sleep for surgery, and now he has woken up inside this cube!  Wow, the story is just great!!
9.  Blue Skies by Cindy Pon - This is set in the future in Taiwan.  In this future, the air is bad.  Rich people have helmets they wear to help not breathe the bad air.  People like our main character don't.  His plan is to kidnap one of these rich girls, and get a bunch of money from her rich parents.  Enough that he can become one of the people living in a helmet.  He takes the girl out of the city to the place he'd been living, a rundown lab building where he built a garden to try to grow food to eat.  She wants to learn about this outside world as she's never seen it before.  A very good dystopian future.
10.  What Arms to Hold by Rajan Khanna - In this future boys are sent to work in robotic mining machines.  They are surgically connected to the machines.  One day Ravi's "Golly" as the robots are called, is attacked by another one, as a boy goes crazy.  Turns out as the boys get sick, they supposedly get sent away to different jobs.  He thought his older brother was sent to a better job.  Turns out when they are no longer useful, they're killed, or left to die.  And the letters from home they get?  Just form letters typed up.  Ravi is going to help a rebellion, until he also needs to help a friend, at that point, he must make a decision.  Another interesting, true dystopian story.
11.  Solitude by Ursula K. LeGuin - This was an interesting story.  Not exactly dystopian in my opinion though.  More science fiction, as the author's name should clue you in.  It is about a girl who goes with her mother and brother to live on another planet with the people and try to learn their culture.  In this culture the men live as hermits.  The women live in homes alone with their children, and only talk to the children.  Women don't talk to each other or go into each others' homes.  The daughter and son really begin to fit into the society, until the day the son, In Joy Born, must leave the village of women because he is no longer considered a child, he is now a young man, and he must live in a group of young men, until they are ready to go out and fight for a place to live as the other men do.  This isn't a good life, and he comes back and asks  his mother to take him back to the ship.  The daughter does not want to, she wants to stay part of the community.  But one day she must go to the ship for awhile, even though she soon gets to go back and be a part of the group she grew up with.
The stories were interesting, mostly quick reads.  Most were not quite my idea of dystopian, but all had their own little twist and uniqueness.  In a way there is kind of something for everyone.  I can think of many people to recommend it to, both students, and customers at the bookstore where I work.