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Diverse Energies

by Tobias S. Buckell (Editor), Joe Monti (Editor)

Other authors: Paolo Bacigalupi (Contributor), K. Tempest Bradford (Contributor), Rahul Kanakia (Contributor), Rajan Khanna (Contributor), Ursula K. Le Guin (Contributor)6 more, Ken Liu (Contributor), Malinda Lo (Contributor), Ellen Oh (Contributor), Cindy Pon (Contributor), Greg van Eekhout (Contributor), Daniel H. Wilson (Contributor)

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12710174,781 (3.52)None
"In this collection of original and rediscovered stories of tragedy and hope, the diverse stars are students, street kids, "good girls," kidnappers, and child laborers pitted against their environments, their governments, and sometimes one another as they seek answers in their dystopian worlds"--

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I enjoyed this book. I really enjoyed all the stories except for one, and their were several which I wish could be expanded into novels, I liked them so much. ( )
  queenofthebobs | Feb 27, 2019 |
RGG: Some better, some more difficult but all interesting short stories in this collection. Almost of all them felt more like the start of a story rather than a complete story. Reading Interest: 14-YA.
  rgruberexcel | Feb 23, 2018 |
A Strong Collection of Diverse Dystopian Stories

No one can doubt that the wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed, but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men. No one can doubt that cooperation in the pursuit of knowledge must lead to the freedom of the mind and freedom of the soul.

- President John F. Kennedy, from a speech at University of California, March 23, 1962

Maybe your claim is that Dungeons & Dragons is based on a fantasy feudal Europe? Maybe your game is, but the whole point is that you can make whatever game you want; a diverse cast in your illustration just encourages that. And for that matter, are you seriously telling me that you think having a person with darker skin is somehow more of a strain on your suspension of disbelief than…a lizard lady or a devil dude?

- Mordicai Knode, writing for Tor.com, April 11, 2012

Inspired by online discussions of diversity in literature (see, e.g. RaceFail 2009), Joe Monti and Tobias S. Buckell set out to create a diverse anthology of dystopian stories that feature people of color and LGBTQ protagonists: "not a brick thrown at a window, [but] the continued paving of a path" - a path toward stories that reflect the entire spectrum of the human experience. Diverse Energies is a wonderful step in this direction - and yet, six years later, the continuing debate about representation in books, movies, video games, and other forms of media (most recently, via the We Need Diverse Books campaign) underscores the fact that there's so much work yet to be done.

Featuring original and "rediscovered" stories by the likes of Ellen Oh, Malinda Lo, Ken Liu, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Ursula K. Le Guin, Diverse Energies is a strong collection of dystopian stories that center on POC and LGBTQ protagonists, many of them written by authors of color and/or gay/lesbian authors. Every single story features at least one non-white protagonist (many of the casts are overwhelming non-white), with a variety of nations and ethnicities represented. Settings range from futuristic, war-torn Japan to (seemingly) present-day China, and the tunnels that run underneath Chinatown in New York City. Additionally, several stories also feature gay and lesbian romances, both old ("Next Door") and newly blossoming ("Good Girl").

Like most anthologies, Diverse Energies is a bit of a mixed bag; but even my least favorite stories of the bunch earned 3/5 stars. Overall, it's a fairly strong collection, with a few especially shiny gems sprinkled throughout. Many (though not all) of the stories have a YA vibe to them, but just like straight-up YA, they're suitable for teenage and adult readers alike.

"The Last Day" by Ellen Oh - Set in a distant future in which a massive world war ended with the emergence of two competing superpowers, the Emperor of the East attempts to conceal the existence of a powerful bomb - afraid that his citizens would stop fighting the President of the West if news got out. "The Last Day" follows two boys as they traverse their city, Urakami, on its last day before it's bombed by the West - and any survivors, massacred by the Emperor. 3/5 stars.

"Freshee's Frogurt" by Daniel H. Wilson - Presented in an interview format, the lone survivor of a robot attack (an allegedly "malfunctioning" domestic robot) offers a glimpse of what's to come in just nine short months, with the advent of Zero Hour. (I assume this story ties into Wilson's Robopocalypse series, which is in my TBR list.) 3/5 stars (but maybe just because I haven't yet gotten to Robopocalypse).

"Uncertainty Principle" by K. Tempest Bradford - Throughout most of her short life, Iliana's reality shifts in ways both large and small. But it's only when a change claims a much-needed president (Keith Ellison's daughter Amirah, in a really cool and timely cameo) - followed by her own parents - that Iliana vows to find out who's changing history, and why. While the multiple time lines are a bit confusing at times, I really enjoyed the quirkiness and overt social justice aspects of the story. 5/5 stars.

"Pattern Recognition" by Ken Liu - David is one of many kids "enrolled" in the Volpe Ness School, where the students are put to work solving puzzles and finding patterns. Run by authoritarian Dr. Gau (who fancies himself a philanthropist), the children are taught that the Outside is a ruined wasteland, populated by the wicked and the sinful; as such, all artifacts from the days before are strictly prohibited, as is social interaction between the sexes (except at Sunday worship). When David steals a phone from an Outsider in order to impress Helen ("They had looked up kiss a long time ago, and tonight the reading came in handy."), he unwittingly establishes contact with the outside world, and discovers that his whole life has been a lie. 4/5 stars.

"Gods of the Dimming Light" by Greg van Eekhout - Edward responds to an advertisement for the medical research company NorseCODE - only to find out that he, as a descendant of Odin, is destined to play a role in the world's final days, as it ends "not with a bang, but with a sniffle." Nevermind that he's an atheist, and his parents hail not from Scandinavia, but from Indonesia. 4/5 stars.

"Next Door" by Rahul Kanakia - In this dystopian future, humans are divided into Strangers and Squatters. The ultimate "haves," Strangers are so addicted to their tech that it's the real world which seems an illusion. Most of them don't even notice the Squatters living in their basements, garages, even homes. Aakash and Victor are a couple on the hunt for their own squat. When they become entangle with Joel - the son of the man who owns Aakash's family's current squat and a futuristic hipster who restores historical artifacts for the Squatters, the inheritors of human culture, but for whom he has little respect as individuals - they hit the motherload, only to have it taken away once again. In this 'verse, the rich literally can't see the poor, making it a rather handy allegory for today's widening poverty gap. 4/5 stars.

"Good Girl" by Malina Lo - If you enjoyed Ash or Huntress, you're sure to love this short story by the incomparable Malida Lo. Set in New York City, Lo imagines a society in which the government enforces racial purity through the Health Ministry, which approves marriages and green-lights (or not) reproduction. Women who become pregnant without approval may be sterilized - unless they're rich enough to pay off a government official or two. Asian is the ideal, while biracial citizens are driven underground to live as "Tunnel Mutts," performing the dirty, unsavory jobs rejected by "pure bloods." When her older brother Kit disappears, Nix - a biracial lesbian passing as pure (and presumably straight) - enlists the help of "Tunnel Mutt" Nix to help find him. The two fall for each other, but their relationship is doomed from the start. 5/5 stars.

"A Pocket Full of Dharma" by Paolo Bacigalupi - When a mysterious Tibetan hires beggar boy Wang Jun to deliver a data cube to an even more mysterious person in white gloves, "Soldier Wang" finds himself caught in the middle of a dangerous political conspiracy - for the data cube, you see, contains the consciousness of the 19th Dalai Lama. 3/5 stars. The organic city called Huojianzhu (reminiscent of the living ships in Lilith's Brood) really steals the show.

"Blue Skies" by Cindy Pon - A young man going by the name "Dark Horse" kidnaps a wealthy you girl for ransom so that he can infiltrate the suited elite and set the world right again. What he doesn't expect is to find a kindred soul hidden beneath all that glass and latex. 5/5 stars.

"What Arms to Hold Us" by Rajan Khanna - Imprisoned in a primosite mine, Ravi is recruited by one of his bosses to assassinate the Archmagus, using his mining robot gollie as a weapon. On the verge of murder, Ravi realizes with a start that Magus Sharpe never mentioned what would become of him and the other boys. How can he trust Sharpe when he's part of the very system that enslaves, tortures, and discards children by the thousands?

"Solitude" by Ursula K. Le Guin - An intergalactic ethnologist, "mother" chose to settle on the planet Eleven-Soro to conduct field research - but only after three First Observers failed to communicate with the tight-lipped natives, whose beliefs that most human relationships are unnatural are reflected in their customs and behaviors. However, mom came armed with a secret weapon that the Observers were lacking: her two children, Borny and Ren, who were able to cross certain cultural boundaries that constrain the adults of the culture (such as asking direct questions, or entering another person's home). After seven years on the planet - one of which Ren's brother Borny spent living in exile in the Territories, joining a boy gang and proving his manhood - mom and Borny wish to leave, against Ren's wishes. Having lived on Eleven-Soro for more than half her twelve years, Ren languishes on the ship, wanting nothing more than to go home, to the human solitude of her adopted planet. 5/5 stars.

I can't say enough good things about "Solitude"; riveting, thought-provoking, and melancholy, it had me at the edge of my seat. Between library sales and Bookmooch, I've managed to acquire quite a few books by Le Guin over the past few years; "Solitude" has definitely pushed them to the top of my to-read pile.

Recommended for: Fans of grim, introspective, and/or socially conscious SF dystopias; readers who are sick of falling in love with a story, only to realize halfway through that it lacks more than a token female/POC/LGBTQ/otherwise diverse character (if that); people who are tired of scouring books for diverse characters and would rather just sit back and enjoy the show, diversity being assured at the outset.

http://www.easyvegan.info/2015/02/09/diverse-energies-edited-by-tobias-s-buckell... ( )
  smiteme | Feb 4, 2015 |
I'm not usually a fan of short stories, but I requested this one from NetGalley because I like some of the authors mentioned and I love supporting books about diverse characters. The stories are all interesting, but there are definitely some that I enjoyed more than others. My favorites were "Uncertainty Principle" by K. Tempest Bradford (a girl discovers that she's the only person who can detect temporal anomalies), "Gods of the Dimming Light" by Greg van Eekhout (a modernization of Ragnarok - especially cool because I read it the day before Ragnarok was thought to occur!), and "Blue Skies" by Cindy Pon (not your typical kidnapping story). The others weren't bad, but these were the three that I found the most interesting and wish I had gotten more story for.

This collection is great because of the much-needed diversity it features. However, the downside is that so much of it is bleak. The worlds these authors have created are beautiful and fascinating, but also really terrible if I were to actually live in them. I would love to see a collection of stories (or novels) about these characters when they're happy and living normal lives. ( )
  jessidee | Mar 18, 2014 |
This is a book of several YA dystopian short stories that aims for diversity. Much of YA, of speculative fiction and definitely dystopia is extremely white washed and made up entirely of straight people. GBLT people are, largely, dead and POC and women frequently take a back seat to the noble straight, male lead. It’s refreshing to see an anthology of short stories that focus on minorities.

I’m going to sound all kinds of fluffy but I have to say I would have appreciated a happy ending or two. I know, it’s dystopia and all, but only a couple ended with what could be considered actual happy endings and I do so hate ending on a downer. Overall the book is gritty and dark and sad. But, at the same time, more realistic for it. These are not kids who manage to reach inside themselves and change the world, these aren’t kids who manage to heal all the wounds and these aren’t kids who change the system, lead the revolution and make the world a better place. They aren’t even kids who can escape from their conditions and live better lives – sometimes just surviving is an achievement in these worlds. Which is realistic but… well, grim. The Last Day by Ellen Oh, a story of World War 2 Japan, where Japan didn’t surrender after Nagasaki and Hiroshima – and more cities are wiped out is among the darkest you’ll ever read.

And there’s nothing wrong with a bit of grim here and there, but it does have a different light on the escapism. I do think one of the best stories in this light is Gods of the Dimming Night by Greg van Eekhout where the protagonist refuses to leave his family and become a hero fighting in Ragnarok, instead choosing to bring his family money for power and food.

My main complaint will always be that these are short stories. I’m not a lover of short stories – I feel that they really don’t have the chance to develop themselves. And I think that’s especially true of this book which has 11 stories crammed in there – that’s 11 with a foreward and afterward and it’s not a very long book. Some manage to elegant encompass the entire story in the short story format: Good Girl by Melinda Lo with a tragic love story in a dystopian world obsessed with racial purity. Pattern Recognition by Ken Liu, a story of a rich western corporation exploiting poor POC children to be used as computers. What Arms to Hold by Rajan Khanna is another beautifully tragic story of POC children being used as slaves in the mines, his escape rather than being used as a tool for the revolution. No, it doesn’t end with a resolve but, realistically, there is no good resolve that would come. It has a bittersweet closure of its own.

While these really did well in the short story format, others handled it poorly and, I think, felt more like prologues for something greater. Blue Skies by Cindy Pon sets up a wonderful story where the Haves rule over the Wants and a Want boy kidnapping a Have girl to gain money to try and change society – it has vast potential that is only hinted at in the short story. Freshee’s Frogurt by Daniel H. Wilson was definitely the weakest story in the collection – was mercifully short and barely even established a prologue for a greater dystopia. Why tell the story of the first shots of a war which we never see? Similarly Next Door by Rahul Kanakia, a great story of an extreme class divide and one boy and his boyfriend trying to find their own home, felt like setting up for more. Especially since it appeared in the same book as Blue Skies, it felt like the relationship was introduced as an after-thought since it was brushed on so shallowly.

While they aren’t prologues I also think Uncertainty Principle by K. Tempest Bradford spent a lot of time setting up an extremely complex world with a changing reality and time travel – and how this one girl can see how the time shifts and reality changes. It felt like it was a perfect set up of the world but after all that effort the story ends – it’s a difficult and mind bending concept to fit into a short story. A Pocket Full of Dharma by Paolo Bacigalupi also introduced a complicated world I wanted to see more of – the story itself was relatively self-contained (and bittersweet tragic) but the setting was worth a revisit.

Read More ( )
  FangsfortheFantasy | Sep 20, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Buckell, Tobias S.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Monti, JoeEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Bacigalupi, PaoloContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bradford, K. TempestContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kanakia, RahulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Khanna, RajanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Le Guin, Ursula K.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Liu, KenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lo, MalindaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Oh, EllenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pon, CindyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
van Eekhout, GregContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wilson, Daniel H.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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"In this collection of original and rediscovered stories of tragedy and hope, the diverse stars are students, street kids, "good girls," kidnappers, and child laborers pitted against their environments, their governments, and sometimes one another as they seek answers in their dystopian worlds"--

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