Brave New Worlds: Second edition of an excellent anthology of dystopian fiction

Brave New Worlds (second edition) edited by John Joseph AdamsBrave New Worlds (second edition) edited by John Joseph Adams

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.

Publication Date: December 4, 2012 | Series: Dystopian Stories. You are being watched. Your every movement is being tracked, your every word recorded. Your spouse may be an informer, your children may be listening at your door, your best friend may be a member of the secret police. You are alone among thousands, among great crowds of the brainwashed, the well-behaved, the loyal. Productivity has never been higher, the media blares, and the army is ever triumphant. One wrong move, one slip-up, and you may find yourself disappeared — swallowed up by a monstrous bureaucracy, vanished into a shadowy labyrinth of interrogation chambers, show trials, and secret prisons from which no one ever escapes. Welcome to the world of the dystopia, a world of government and society gone horribly, nightmarishly wrong. What happens when civilization invades and dictates every aspect of your life? From 1984 to The Handmaid’s Tale, from Children of Men to Bioshock, the dystopian imagination has been a vital and gripping cautionary force. Brave New Worlds collects the best tales of totalitarian menace by some of today’s most visionary writers, including Neil Gaiman, Paolo Bacigalupi, Orson Scott Card, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Ursula K. Le Guin. When the government wields its power against its own people, every citizen becomes an enemy of the state. Will you fight the system, or be ground to dust beneath the boot of tyranny?

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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  1. I have a copy of this one, but it’s one of many that I (sadly) haven’t gotten around to reading yet. I’ve been a bit hesitant to pick it up, honestly, because as much as I enjoy dystopian fiction, I find it’s getting so overdone these days that I’m starting to turn back on myself, to avoid it even though I enjoy it, because so many offerings I find don’t live up to my expectations. It’s good to hear that this one likely will, though, and that makes me more comfortable with taking a chance on it sooner rather than later.

  2. I just found selections from this book free on an ipad app called eBook Search, itself also free but with lots of ads. I found it under Baen Books tab, where the free books are listed alphabetically. This is listed as Selections from Brave New Worlds, so it will be under S. I was able to download it as an ePub file.

    It has the Introduction and eight stories. I’m definitely going to read these free stories, and I’ll come back and comment on them here. Thanks for a great review. I would not have known about this book and wouldn’t have have noticed it if I hadn’t read this review in the past couple of days.

    I’ve posted this same comment on the review of the first edition. I don’t know whether any of these free selections are from the second edition or not.

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