Review: Brave New Worlds

Review: Brave New WorldsBrave New Worlds by John Joseph Adams
Published by Night Shade Books on January 2, 2011
Genres: Anthologies, Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, Short Stories
Pages: 481
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

From Huxley's Brave New World, to Orwell's 1984, to Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, dystopian books have always been an integral part of both science fiction and literature, and have influenced the broader culture discussion in unique and permanent ways. Brave New Worlds brings together the best dystopian fiction of the last 30 years, demonstrating the diversity that flourishes in this compelling subgenre.

This landmark tome contains stories by Ursula K. Le Guin, Cory Doctorow, M. Rickert, Paolo Bacigalupi, Orson Scott Card, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, and many others.

While reading this book over the past week or so, I have been asked by several people whether this book is a sequel to the classic dystopia written by Aldous Huxley. Answer: no, it isn’t. The title is of course a reference to that work, but the book is not explicitly about Huxley’s (although one story, “Arties Aren’t Stupid” did remind me of it). Brave New Worlds is an anthology of dystopian stories by both famous and mostly unknown authors.

Like any anthology, the quality varies. Some of the stories I couldn’t put down, while others I had to force myself to finish. The good definitely outweighed the bad for me in this reading experience though and I found a bunch of new authors to watch for!

The dystopian societies are ranged around a number of themes:

  • Getting to live an easy life in exchange for suffering (either of one or many)
  • Babies not allowed
  • Not enough babies
  • Mining (yeah, I don’t know either…These were not my favorite stories)
  • Removing all the homosexuals
  • Removing all the heterosexuals
  • Advertising
  • Growing old too slowly
  • Growing old too quickly
  • And more…

A quick word about a couple favorites and least favorites.

The Best: I absolutely adored the story “Just Do It” by Heather Lindsley. Unfortunately, Heather has not yet written a book, so I can’t read any more of her stuff. In her dystopian world, advertising has gone crazy! Ad men actually create darts that are thrown at people on the street. If you get hit by a dart, you get a craving so strong for something (i.e. french fries or fish sandwiches) that you have to go get whatever it is immediately. Even worse, it might not stop there.

Also awesome was “Caught in the Organ Draft” by Robert Silverberg. Although his name didn’t ring any bells with me, Silverberg has been writing sci fi since the fifties and has a ton of books. Written in 1972, this short story considers a world where war is waged by robots to spare lives…so that all the young people can be used as organ donors as part of a draft. They only take non-vital organs, like the ‘spare’ kidney or lung, so it’s cool, right? And the important adults can now live for upwards of a hundred and fifty years! If you liked Neal Shusterman’s Unwind, you definitely don’t want to miss this story.

The Worst: I actually liked “Amaryllis”by Carrie Vaughn, but in the context of the anthology, it was awful. The problem: it’s not a dystopia. At all. The main character is being treated poorly by an authority figure and the society certainly isn’t ideal, but her problem is resolved when they go to a higher authority. The higher authority fixes everything and not in a brainwashing kind of way. The editor even mentions in the story’s introduction that it’s not a dystopia. So why is it here?

“Sacrament” by Matt Williamson has, in my mind, the problem of the former, as well as being a story I did not enjoy and which did not, to me, seem particularly well-crafted. The story is from the perspective of a torturer in a society where advertising is art. The torturer likes his job, not in a creepy way, so he says, but takes pride in it. His father was one of the great ad-men/artists. The story lacks a point that I could find, does not successfully entwine the father’s story with the son’s and the main character is not unhappy with the world around him.

So yeah, lots of great stories (way more than I mentioned above, like “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and “Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick). Plus, there is awesome cover art and a fabulous bibliography of dystopian literature at the back! This is a must for dystopia fans

One response to “Review: Brave New Worlds”

  1. Sounds interesting! I really love dystopian stories. 🙂

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