Diverse Energies by Various Authors

reviews
No one can doubt that the wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men. No one can doubt that cooperation in the pursuit of knowledge must lead to freedom of the mind and freedom of the soul.”
—President John F. Kennedy, from a speech at University of California, March 23, 1962

In a world gone wrong, heroes and villains are not always easy to distinguish and every individual has the ability to contribute something powerful.
   In this stunning collection of original and rediscovered stories of tragedy and hope, the stars are a diverse group of students, street kids, good girls, kidnappers, and child laborers pitted against their environments, their governments, differing cultures, and sometimes one another as they seek answers in their dystopian worlds. Take a journey through time from a nuclear nightmare of the past to society’s far future beyond Earth with these eleven stories by masters of speculative fiction. 

ebook368 pages
Published October 1st 2012 by Tu Books

Thank you to Netgalley and Tu Books for providing me with a review copy of Diverse Energies, this has in no way influenced my review of the book.

The Afterword explains that the authors were asked to "contribute a story to an anthology about a wonderful, blended, messed-up future as not a role model, but a touchstone." He goes on to say explain, "Having people of colo(u)r/ Caucasian/ LGBT protagonists in stories by writers is not a brick thrown at a window, it is the continued paving of a path."

“The Last Day” by Ellen Oh
A dystopian world built on an alternative history of our current world. What if the outcome of World War One had split the world into two sides, what would the Second World War have been like then? Ellen Oh's smooth writing style brought the characters and environment to life...before all the death.  Bleak!...but well-written; I liked it.

“Freshee’s Frogurt” by Daniel H. Wilson

It's a gory little tale, and the interviewee's voice was wonderfully upfront and conversational. Yet, in the absence of a protagonist of colour, it should have given me a sense that diversity was being explored through a question of culture and/or sexuality, which was not the case. Not sure how it fits the brief of the anthology.

“Uncertainty Principle” by K. Tempest Bradford

A young girl realises that the world around her changes every so often, but she's the only one who remains unchanged. One day her neighbourhood is idyllic, and the next it's a run down, high-crime area. One day her best friend is there and the next no-one else knew the other girl ever existed.
   Such a good premise for a time-travel story, and I could have stood to read even more about the characters and the world(s). Enjoyed it, and wanted another serving.

“Pattern Recognition” by Ken Liu

A group of boys and girls are segregated and told to abide by a school's rules to show gratitude for having been saved from the fate that befell the people outside the school walls.
   It's a clever idea, and easy to connect this story to the exploitation that happens in this day and age. Enjoyed it.

“Gods of Dimming Light” by Greg van Eekhout

In this futuristic world we're living in something like a second 'ice-age', a young man's DNA tells an interesting story. When he's given some surprising information will he find it difficult to make a 'life-changing' decision? Probably an acquired taste sort of story (more about this below). Enjoyed it.

“Next Door” by Rahul Kanakia

Interesting take on a future US, where the wealthy live mainly in the virtual world and barely notice the poor people that are now squatting in their homes and garages. Two boys, young lovers, seek their own property to squat in.Loved the world creation and wish I'd warmed to the protagonist more. Enjoyed it.

“Good Girl” by Malinda Lo

One of my favourite stories, this is set in a dystopia where racial purity is law. The main character sets out searching for her brother, but in the process finds she's also searching for herself. She ponders her place in the world - with regards to social class, race and sexuality. She learns more about the people who live below the city, the people whose existence no-one else admits to, although all crimes are laid at their doorstep...and although this subterranean world is every bit as claustrophobic as her existence up top, it does allow her to be more herself and to hope that there may be more to the world than what she thought. Loved it!

 “A Pocket Full of Dharma” by Paolo Bacigalupi
Loved the world creation, which was disturbing and fascinating in equal measure. An orphan boy who is forced to leave his village with not a thing in his pocket, learns to survive on unforgiving city streets. Will the story end with him still empty handed, or will his pockets hold more than he started out with? Wonderfully weird.

“Blue Skies” by Cindy Pon

A future in which the rich can live to be over a hundred and everyone else is lucky to live until thirty. Global warming and pollution have taken their toll on our environment and health, and the 'wealth-gap' that exists today has worsened. In this story a 'have' girl and a 'have-not' boy realise just how much more each of them wants out of life. I could go on and on about this one, but then I'd pretty much spoil the plot,so I'll end with: Loved it, wish it were a novel so I could meet the characters again!

“What Arms to Hold” by  Rajan Khanna

The story of a boy hired to become part of a workforce that control mining robots through a neural network. Yet the corporation he works for may not be all it seems. I got a little confused trying to visualise the mining process, but was impressed that in a short space of time the author manages to convey a range of emotions, from hope and pride, to confusion, suspicion, hurt and revenge...to bring us right back to hope. Enjoyed it.

“Solitude” by Ursula K. Le Guin
I found "Solitude" thought-provoking. A boy and girl are taken to live on a planet where their mother observes the culture of the inhabitants. The tribe's way of living is so different from their own, but who's way of thinking, feeling and acting is the right way? Loved it.

Overall:  
My three favourite stories are "Blue Skies", "Good Girl" and "Solitude". I found these stories the most thought provoking and loved the way the world creation added to the message of each story. The imagery supported the feelings of the characters - all of whom I found to be compelling in their own ways. Solitude I think works perfectly as short story as do the other two, but I would love for Blue Skies and Good Girl to be turned into full length novels, because the worlds and characters still have much to offer.

I enjoyed Bradford's story and the premise makes this one of the best time-travel tales I've read. 

It amazes me how Bacigalupi's  and Kanakia's stories manage to create such a strong sense of environment in the span of a short story. Bacigalupi's story is available for free on BaeneBooks

"Pattern Recognition" and "What Arms to Hold" got me thinking about the rights of the child and the importance of questioning those in authority.

"The Last Day" is well-written and thought provoking - in that depressing sort of way all stories about the futility of war make us think.

"Gods of Dimming Light" is weird...in that I thought it would be one sort of story and ended up not being what I expected at all. The fact that the message isn't explicit worked for me; I have a feeling we can all draw from it what we will, or nothing at all. I enjoyed it, but if you like things clear-cut you'll probably feel frustrated reading this one.

"Freshee's Froghurt" had a strong voice, though I don't know why it's in this anthology.


11 comments:

  1. Very nice review. I can haz borrow?

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    1. Hi Verse, will lend you my copy when I buy it; the e-Arc can't be shared via kindle.

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  2. I'm not a fan of anthologies. The stories are just too short to really enjoy them, but this one sounds like it worked out great! ;)

    J'adore Happy Endings

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  3. I need to read more anthologies - and more short stories in general. It's great that so many of these stories sound like they're so enjoyable. I may need to request this one :)

    Thanks for the great review!

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  4. That looks like a fantastic anthology - some great authors there too! I'll definately be putting that one on my wish list!

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    1. Totally, I think you'll enjoy it Kate...if I'm wrong I'll have to eat my hat
      Please note: I do not own a hat; however, I stand by this: I think it's right up your street :)

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  5. Sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Great review, Katja! I've seen this book around a few times but haven't read any reviews on it. Your is the first. :) I really like the sound of Pocketfull of Dharma and Good Girl. Some of these author names are familiar so I will have to check this out! Thanks for the helpful review.

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  7. I wasn't aware that this was made up of short stories but it sounds like a good collection, I like the sound of your three faves as well as Uncertainty Principle. Great review, Katja!

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  8. I love the cover and the stories sound great! I don't read much anthologies but I want to get a copy.

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  9. I love the sound of this - really interesting subject matter.
    It's also interesting how you pick out two that had novel potential - this is why I love short stories - an excellent short story can either have heaps of potential outside of it's form, or just be perfect because it is so short. They're just so diverse. Love short stories!

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