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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 12.19.10] review book scifi dystopic

Year: 2011
Writers: Various
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Amazon: Purchase
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 9 out of 10

Brave New Worlds is one of the best primers of dystopian literature you'll find on shelves today. A perfect blend of classic and contemporary short stories about government control, technological subjugation and corporate espionage, each story offers a unique position on how we're so apt to allow entities to control us... for our own good, of course.

When I first got the 500 page book in the mail I was worried I wouldn't have time to read it before it gets released in January. But once I started I found I couldn't put it down. Once again, it would seem that editor John Joseph Adams knows how to pick 'em.

Of course, Brave New Worlds won major points right off the bat for featuring Shirley Jackson's 1948 classic "The Lottery" as the opening story. This story was my first introduction to the scary idea of a dystopian society. It was taught in schools along with "Lord of the Flies" when I was a kid and it still holds up as a simple, yet elegant look at our propensity to hand control of our liberty over because of superstition and fear.

This theme pops up in each story that follows regardless of what the story is about. In Joseph Paul Heine's "Ten with a Flag," our quest to know everything about our children before they are born has led to a world where that knowledge determines our social standing. In Philip K. Dick's "Minority Report" our desire for a crime-free world has led us to forget that the justice system is based on the concept of innocent until proven guilty.

I think the thing that keeps me coming back to stories about dystopias is the interplay between utopias and dystopias and the idea that you can't have one without the other. In Ursula K. Le Guin's "The ones who walk away from Omelas," the utopian city of Omelas has a secret - a child kept prisoner underground. The citizens of the town all know he's there, starving in the dark, but most are able to surpress the thought and enjoy what thay have. Those who can't are "the ones who walk away." Of course Le Guin's story is a metaphore, but it's all about this idea that there can never be a utopia of full equality... because if everyone's equal, chances are you've got yourself a dystopia, like the one that is developed in Neil Gaiman's "From Homogenous to Honey" where equality equals no identity allowed (another inclusion that wins this book major points.

Probably my favourite story in the book is S.L. Gilbow's "Red Card" which imagines a world in which everyone is allowed to murder one person, as long as they have a card submitted by the government. You're not supposed to tell anyone if you have a card though, so you can imagine the kind of paranoid world that creates.

Night Shade Books has been making a name for itself with a number of recent anthologies, most notably the post apocalyptic books, The Living Dead I & 2 (review) and Wastelands (review). Personally I think they've hit another home run with Brave New Worlds, so check it out this January 25, 2011.

Authors included in the collection are:

Shirley Jackson
S. L. Gilbow
Joseph Paul Haines
Ursula K. Le Guin
M. Rickert
Kate Wilhelm
O Geoff Ryman
Charles Coleman Finlay
Neil Gaiman & Bryan Talbot
J. G. Ballard
Carrie Vaughn
Paolo Bacigalupi
James Morrow
Alex Irvine
Ray Bradbury
Cory Doctorow
Caitlin R. Kiernan
Geoff Ryman
Harlan Ellison (R)
Genevieve Valentine
Sarah Langan
Kim Stanley Robinson
Matt Williamson
Philip K. Dick
Heather Lindsley
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Robert Silverberg
Orson Scott Card
Jeremiah Tolbert
Joe Mastroianni
Adam-Troy Castro
Tobias S. Buckell
Vylar Kaftan

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erick (11 years ago) Reply

I loved the stories in Wastelands ad will have to pick this up. Also he has some of the stories up for free on his website.


leejmavin (11 years ago) Reply

I loved the collection, check out this dark and crazy collection! just out in December


chuck (11 years ago) Reply

Le Guin, Wilhelm, Ballard, Bradbury, Ellison, Robinson, Dick, Silverberg, Vennegut, Card... and Cory Doctorow?!? WTF? How is this hack even considered to be on the same pages as these great writers? My question is, What editor or publisher does Mr. Doctorow have pictures of screwing a goat? That's the only explaination I can think of for his continuing career. Rant over.

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