FYI, the cover of this in person is so cool. You eventually can see the word “history” hidden behind “future”.
Wow. What a great collection. I didn’t give any story less than four stars. Some stories resonated with me very much because some of them read as things that could totally happen in a year or less with the ways things are going on in the United States right now. Other stories had a very strong fantasy element (which I liked) but didn’t seem as if they could happen. One of the reasons why I loved “The Handmaid’s Tale” so much is that you could see a future where the United States government decided to take over women’s bodies and dictate births. Settle in and read this anthology about a people’s future history of the United States.
The introduction by Victor LaValle sets the tone for this collection. He begins by telling us about his white father, his half brother, and how his father pushed his politics on them both, not understanding or caring that both of his sons mothers were minorities. His recollection of how he felt when he realized that Hillary Clinton was not going to become President, but that Donald Trump had won. And from there into a story about Howard Zinn and his book called “A People’s History of the United States.”
“The Bookstore at the End of America” by Charlie Jane Anders (5 stars)-I loved the idea of the United States splitting off from California and how both factions (California and the United States) are caricatures of what we hear people grousing about now. California seems super liberal and the United States reads as oppressed. The owner of the bookstore called The Last Page is Molly. Molly has her daughter Phoebe and through her you get to see that Phoebe and her friends may be able to rise up and come together unlike what their parents.
“Our Aim Is Not to Die” by A. Merc Rustad (5 stars)-This story follows Sua who is in a horrible version of the future where everyone is expected to conform to being heterosexual. The government watches social media interactions and expects you to do certain things around certain dates (get married, have children, interact with friends, etc.). Sua is in a fake relationship with a man who is gay and has a close friend named Maya. Don’t want to spoil too much here, but Sua ends up deciding what they can do to make things better for those who come next and the story has a hopeful tone to it in the end.
“The Wall” by Lizz Huerta (4 stars)-This one confused me a bit here and there. It read as more fantasy to me than the first two. I was confused about how humans were birthed in this world, Huerta mentions that some children were born with jaws and others were not and my brain went, wait what? How could they eat or breathe? And then I decided to just continue with the story. We eventually get into a wall being built to keep people out and how eventually what to is referred to as the empire starts removing people’s rights. Then things get even worse when the military appears to turn against their own family members.
“Read After Burning” by Maria Dahvana Headley (4.5 stars)-So parts of this read as fantasy and others parts did not. The parts dealing with the government apparently restricting books and then banning them and words I could see happening. This is all after apparently bombs were dropped and people ran around “misunderstanding” each other. I loved following the protagonist in this one and them telling us about the Librarians and how people ended up having words or stories written onto their bodies.
“Chapter 5: Disruption and Continuity” by Malka Older (4 stars)-This was probably my least favorite in the collection and that’s mainly because it read like a text book. There is no set-up for things mentioned in this story so I found myself struggling initially through this one.
“It Was Saturday Night, I Guess That Makes It All Right” by Sam J Miller (5 stars)-
A world in which the government spies on you and apparently has banned certain music and homosexuality. The protagonist in this story is a young gay men who works for the privatized police forces. The protagonist still can’t stop himself for looking for comfort and sex as he travels around with a supervisor named Sid where they install phone cloners. Prince comes into play here because at one point in the story apparently all of his music gets banned. More fantasy comes into play though when the protagonist does go off and have a sexual encounter and something dark seems to be happening to him.
“Attachment Disorder” by Tananarive Due (5 stars)-I was a bit confused with this one when it started out, but it all comes together later. Apparently in this future, people’s DNA could be stolen and children could be born from that. Apparently a plague has harmed a lot of people but the government is still out threatening people. Our protagonist in this one is an older woman named Nayima and she’s doing what she can to protect someone named Lottie. Nayima has a choice in this one and she chooses freedom. The story in this one ends on a more dark note though IMHO.
“By His Bootstraps” by Ashok K. Banker (5 stars)-Three words. Genetic Time bomb. And I laughed through this whole story. I doubt anything like this could come true because the current President loathes science. But I loved a story where the MAGA President and his followers get hoisted on their own petard when they try to use a genetic time bomb to wipe out POC and instead it resets America and then the rest of the world to one in which Native Americans ended up becoming the dominant racial group in the U.S.
“Riverbed” by Omar El Akkad (5 stars)-This one was sad and I loved it. We follow a woman named Dr. Khadija Singh who as a young woman is rounded up with her family when the United States started rounding up Muslims and keeping them encamped. It’s apparently been some time since these events and the country has moved on again and now where she and her family were rounded up and forced to stay has been turned into a museum with some BS sculpture to memorialize what happened. Khadija returns from Canada to Billings for something that belongs to her.
“Does it feel different, the driver asked, all these years later?”
“No,” Khadija replied. “It feels exactly the same.”
“You think the midterms will change anything? My sons says now that the Social Democrats picked up a couple more seats in the House, they can try to reinstate the healthcare act, maybe cut a deal on tax reform.”
Khadija broke into laughter.
“Tax reform, Jesus Christ,” she said. She set her beer on the ground.
“You know what this country is?” she said.
“This country is a man trying to describe a burning building without using the word fire.”
“What Maya Found There” by Daniel Jose Older (4 stars)-This one had more fantasy elements. Maya Lucia Aviles is looking at a future where science is being bent to make something faster, stronger, and deadlier to humans. I thought this was just an okay story after coming after “Riverbed.”
“The Referendum” by Lesley Nneka Arimah (5 stars)- A future that has African refugees rounded up and forced to return back to their own countries. This story provides background into the fact that more and more draconian laws are able to pass the Senate by the slimmest margin making the United States terrible for black people until a final terrible act: a referendum to repeal the 13th amendment and to reinstate slavery goes through. The protagonist in this story stays with her husband in America and works alongside her sister in law Darla, as part of a resistance group called “Black Resistance.” You get her sister in law’s jealously about what she didn’t just leave the United States when she had the chance. I also don’t know if I would have stayed based on what I read in this story either. Anyone in this present starts talking about should be re-instituted I am rounding up my immediate family and getting the hell out.
“Calendar Girls” by Justina Ireland (5 stars)- We follow a young woman named Alyssa who apparently is selling contraceptives which have become banned. Also in this new world abortion has been outlawed. Ireland throws an aside out there about the legal age to marry a girl has been lowered and my whole body shuddered. This story read like a Black Mirror episode (in a good way) and I loved the twists and the ending.
“The Synapse Will Free Us From Ourselves by Violet Allen (5 stars)-We follow a young man named Daniel who apparently works for something called the Synapse as an Adjustment Engineer. Daniel’s job is to make his client Dante into a heterosexual. This story was chilling and I loved the twists in it.
“0.1” by Gabby Rivera (4 stars)-This one was a little confusing to me definitely read as pure fantasy. A couple manages to get pregnant though no children have been able to be born for a pretty lengthy period of time. POVs change throughout.
“The Blindfold” by Tobias S. Buckell (5 stars)-This was great. A future in which one can buy the technology in order to be viewed as a white male during a trial…..yeah this one was so freaking apt based on current events I didn’t even know what to say while I was reading it. Very very good. And I loved the twist! Another one that would make a great Black Mirror episode since technology is an important piece of this one. As well as understanding mixed races.
Judges give different sentences. The data is there. Undeniable.
But the most important question became not whether human beings were flawed but what could we do about it?
Consider this: Analyzing the prison sentences judges handed down based on how long it had been since they had something to eat shows a pattern of longer sentences given the longer it has been since they ate.
is it fair for one person who smoked some weed to get one sentence in the morning just after breakfast and for someone close to lunch to get a longer sentence just because Judge So-and-So’s blood sugar is dropping?
“No Algorithms In the World” by Hugh Howey (4 stars). Ehh this was okay. A world in which universal basic income is a thing and the protagonist in this one has a terrible ass father who hates how the world has changed. This may have been one of the shortest stories in the collection. I can’t recall off the top of my head.
“Esperanto” by Jamie Ford (4 stars)-Interesting idea about what makes someone beautiful and how technology can be used to alter that idea in people.
“Rome” by G. Willow Wilson (4 stars)-A group of people who apparently are trying to take a test (called the Building Language Proficiency) and also worrying about how a fire may impact their ability to take this test. Some throwaway lines about how Texas is underwater and some other parts of the country have been hit with stuff that sounds like from a disaster movie.
“Give Me Cornbread or Give Me Death” by N. K. Jemisin (4 stars)- This was a weird one, not bad, but it involved dragons. Definitely more on the fantasy side. This was also pretty short so I couldn’t get into it that much.
“Good News Bad News” by Charles Yu (5 stars)-Just two words. Racist robots. And there are some other good news bad news stories we are treated to in this short story. I laughed about the news stories that involved Jeff Bezos version 3, LLC, an incorporeal person organized under the laws of Delaware as the legal heir and cognitive descendant of the human known as Jeff Bezos. This Jeff Bezos is the CEO of AmazonGoogleFace and trying to acquire DisneyAppleSoft.
“What You Sow” by Kai Cheng Thom (5 stars)-I really got a kick out of this story. We follow Yun who is a Celestial in a world that also has humans infected with something which in turn changes them into something called “Sleepless.” I think this one picked up on some Greek mythology as well as Bible stories as well when you read about what a Celestial really is. I just wanted to read more about Yun after this.
“A History of Barbed Wire” by Daniel H. Wilson (4.5 stars)-A world in which the Cherokee Nation apparently takes over the state of Oklahoma. It appears that also something called the Sovereign Wall was built which led to many states going through some turmoil. This has caused many people to try to force their way into Cherokee Nation though there are strict rolls about who can actually be there. Though I really enjoyed this story, parts of it felt unfinished.
“The Sun in Exile” by Catherynne M. Valente (4 stars)-This was a quirky story about a man forcing those who ruled over to ignore the fact that they were in fact hot and were instead cold. It reminded me a bit of someone who yells fake news all the time. At one point the sun is put on trial.
“Harmony” by Seanan McGuire (5 stars)-What lies beneath a new future where apparently tolerance is the new law of the land. There is still preferential treatment for those who are heterosexual over those who are not and microaggressions still exist. We follow a lesbian couple who contemplate buying a town where they can stay along with others and define what makes a home.
“Now Wait For This Week” by Alice Sola Kim (5 stars)-The story follows what happens to someone named Bonnie and we get to read how it appears that she is living the same week again and again along with others. Bonnie isn’t the protagonist in this one though, the protagonist is just someone that knows her. This is a world where apparently rape, sexual harassment, abuse is rampant. There also seems to be breaking news stories about famous men doing some of the above. I think this was the author’s take on the me too movement and how people felt reading the same story over and over again with the name changed.