I found out about this book from following Mark Paxson, one of the authors featured in this collection. It’s a collection of 12 short stories, each of which deal with utopian visions of the future, as a counter to all the dystopian fiction that has become so fashionable.
I was delighted to see this—I’ve long wondered about the disparity between utopia and dystopia in fiction. Each of the stories is by a different author, so I’m doing mini-reviews of each.
- The Call by Alanah Andrews. I can’t discuss the plot of this much without spoiling it, but I loved how it was done, and quite plausible as well.
- Raoul Wiener’s Common Sense by Curtis Bausse. This story was the one that worked the least for me, but I don’t wish to suggest that it was bad, because it wasn’t at all. In fact, one of my favorite lines in the book came in this story—it’s an ironic reference to the book 1984. It was more just a matter of too many framing devices stacked atop each other made it a little confusing for me.
- Endless Summer by Misha Burnett. This felt kind of Brave New World-ish to me. Although for me, just the phrase “Endless Summer” sounds more dystopian than utopian. (I hate heat.)
- Sydney by Mia Dziendziel. This is a bit of a riff on the theme of “Ignorance is Bliss”. Which I guess is also the story of the Garden of Eden and Pandora’s Box, come to think of it… maybe those were the first Utopian stories. Also, this one’s pretty dark.
- Chaos, by Fallacious Rose. A very Swiftian take on the ironic side-effects of a miraculous technology.
- The Museum by M.P. Fitzgerald. This one is the most humorous story in the collection, and also probably most closely aligned with my personal guess as to what the future will be like. And the ironic ending—I’d almost call it “the punchline”–is unforgettable.
- None So Blind, by Chris Foley. I loved this story. It reminded me of the old sci-fi adventure books I used to read as a kid. And all with a creatively constructed and carefully thought-out setting, well-written characters, and some very relevant social commentary to boot. Again, everything in this collection is worth reading, but this story by itself would be worth the price of admission.
- What Price Peace, by Carolyn Young. This was a good, Twilight Zone-like take on human nature when civilization is removed.
- Maranatha by Michael Modini. I didn’t really “get” this story. But that’s on me, not the author, because it’s full of theological references that are, quite frankly, beyond me. It’s well-written, and obviously very well-researched, and I suspect that heads more knowledgeable than mine will appreciate it.
- Antarctica’s Pyramid by Morrill Talmage Moorehead. This story awed me. It’s the sort of weird conspiracy story I treasure, and the author weaves together elements of various theories in a way I’ve only ever seen once before, in the game Deus Ex. And the outlandishness is balanced by a likable narrator with a grounded voice. Great stuff.
- Two Turtles, by Mark Paxson. As I said, I’ve followed Mark for a while now, and he was the reason I heard this collection existed. This is a hard thing to judge, but I thought Mark’s story was the most unusual in the collection, and yet somehow also the most grounded in reality. It’s hard to describe, but I liked it a lot. The story feels mesmerizing and dream-like—a bit like Sheila Hurst’s Ocean Echoes. Maybe it’s because both feature the sea and an environmentalist message.
- Mother Nature by Peter Thomson. This story also has an environmentalist theme to it; told with a light touch and some very amusing lines.
This collection is a real treat. The stories all vary in tone and style so much that each feels fresh and enjoyable. Every reader is bound to have their own opinions on what really constitutes “Utopia”, but this collection will at the very least set them thinking.
A final note: another author and blogger whom I follow, Lydia Schoch, put out a call for hopeful science fiction last year. I’m not sure that all the stories in this collection would fit her criteria, but I think at least some would, and at the very least, I wanted to reference this, because it’s interesting that so many people’s thoughts are turning towards utopianism right now.