This anthology of dystopian fiction, edited by John Joseph Adams, contains stories from some of the greatest names in fantasy and science fiction, including Ursula K. LeGuin, Paolo Bacigalupi, Cory Doctorow and Kim Stanley Robinson. The first edition was reviewed by Stefan Raets and earned a five-star rating. I picked up the second edition to see what the new volume added.
What I found was that the entire first edition was intact. Three stories were added, along with a study guide featuring questions for some of the stories if you wanted to use this in a book club (I want to join that book club!) or class, a filmography of classic dystopian films, and an extensive suggested reading list of dystopian and utopian fiction.
The three new stories were all excellent. The first, “The Cull” by Robert Reed, is set on a station where the people are monitored by doctors to keep them all happy in the face of an impending catastrophe. This story holds just enough creepy suspense to keep the reader guessing, and the last two paragraphs will leave you horrified and thoughtful.
The second story, “Personal Jesus” by Jennifer Pelland, is the instruction manual accompanying the new Personal Jesus device that all members of the new Ecclesiastical States of America will have to wear. It monitors compliance with the legal and moral codes of the new nation, and will administer ‘corrective discipline’ to those who disobey. I loved this story for its ability to take current technology and political environments and imagine their consequences out for a few generations. The shock of recognition is at the heart of most good dystopian fiction.
That trait is amplified in the final new story, “The Perfect Match” by Ken Liu, who describes what happens when the algorithms that are used to personalize our Facebook feeds, ad placement, and movie suggestions become so ubiquitous that they start making personalized recommendations right into our ear. For a short story, this packs a lot of thought-provoking questions about the nature of identity, the role of commerce, privacy in a digital age, and the eroding difference between government and corporate surveillance into a few short pages. I will definitely be looking for more stories by Liu in the future.
I would agree with Stefan that Brave New Worlds is a five-star book. If you like dystopian fiction or short stories, this volume includes selections from the classics all the way up until today, so it’s definitely worth the purchase. Highly recommended.