Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) In a world gone wrong, heroes and villains are not always easy to distinguish and every individual has the ability to contribute something powerful.
In this stunning collection of original and rediscovered stories of tragedy and hope, the stars are a diverse group of students, street kids, good girls, kidnappers, and child laborers pitted against their environments, their governments, differing cultures, and sometimes one another as they seek answers in their dystopian worlds. Take a journey through time from a nuclear nightmare of the past to society’s far future beyond Earth with these eleven stories by masters of speculative fiction. Includes stories by Paolo Bacigalupi, Ursula K. Le Guin, Malinda Lo, Cindy Pon, Daniel H. Wilson, and more.
Thoughts: Many truly depressing futures are showcased in Diverse Energies. From violent wars to exploitation to impossible-to-bridge gaps between the rich and poor…Wait, doesn’t this sound familiar? Doesn’t this sound precisely like what’s in the news today?
That’s what makes these futures so believable, I think. Every single story in this compilation deals with a future that’s all too easy to see happening. This isn’t science fiction taking place on other planets, with people and situations that are too distant from our own lives to really feel a connection to. These are futures that we already know have seeds planted. Exploitation of workers overseas. The poor left to struggle and die in polluted worlds while the rich have the luxury of health and clean air and water. A vicious divide between “eastern” and “western” cultures. These are things we can see bits and pieces of just by turning on the news. The stories are relatable, understandable, easily evoking empathy from any reader.
And true to advertisement, anyone who’s looking for minorities to get some literary screentime in speculative fiction should take a look at this book. Very few stories even contained white characters, and most of the ones who did were not protagonists. If it wasn’t minorities by culture, it was minorities by sexuality. Sometimes both. The characters here were as diverse as humanity itself, and it was a welcome break from fiction that revolves around North America’s accomplishments and station in the global community.
There was only one story where it really felt as though a character of colour was shoehorned in, where it would have made absolutely no difference to the tale whatsoever. A story about a robot on a murderous rampage was told from the perspective of one who was attacked, giving a report to a law enforcement officer. The law enforcement officer had Osage heritage. This was mentioned in 2 lines of dialogue, as an aside. It added nothing to the story. It didn’t take anything away, sure, and perhaps that was the point. That it doesn’t take much to add a bit of diversity to a story. I’m not sure. But to me, it seemed as though the lines were added as an afterthought, a quick way to throw in an attempt at diversity without actually doing so.
But aside from that one story, the diversity shown in this novel was excellent, and could serve as a great lesson to many, readers and writers alike. You want a story that stands out, then don’t create your story from the same cookie-cutter ideas that have been done time and time again. People who aren’t straight and white want characters to relate to too. I know I do! (I’ve mentioned in the past how difficult it can be to find characters who are asexual as a sexual preference, and how hard it can be for me to relate to characters who are driven by sexual urges.)
If you’re looking for some good diversity in your speculative fiction, if you want a glimpse at the futures of places that aren’t North American, if you want to see some minorities take the stage, then reach for a copy of Diverse Energies. It’s worth your time.
(Receivedfor review from the publisher via NetGalley.)