Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Drowned Worlds, edited by Jonathan Strahan

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(SF Climate Change) This anthology contains fourteen original stories and one reprint set in drowned or inundated futures. (102,700 words; Time: 5h:42m)

Rating: ★★★☆☆, Average

"Drowned Worlds," edited by Jonathan Strahan, published on by .

Drowned Stories

This anthology was inspired by The Drowned World, by J.G. Ballard (1962), in which rising solar radiation melted the Earth's ice caps. Although the editor allowed the writers to set their stories on any planet, and to write about inundation from any cause, all but one are set on Earth, and all at least imply that sea-level rise was caused by human beings.

Three of the stories are outstanding, but five are disappointing either due to lack of much of a story or from too much scientific unbelievability. Some authors have constructed beautiful and/or haunting landscapes but put little or no actual story into them. Others don't seem to have much familiarity with the science of global warming. (E.g. although global warming is a real problem, it's not going to destroy most of the US in the next nine years.) This is a topic that lends itself to heavy political messages, and two stories succumb to that.

Overall, it has the expected number of four-or-more-star stories but it's a little heavy on two-star ones.

Specific Recommendations

Destroyed by the Waters, by Rachel Swirsky, takes place around 2065, when a older gay couple goes diving in the ruins of New Orleans where they had their honeymoon fifty years before. They are still grieving the adopted son they lost when Baltimore was flooded, and they're hoping to find some peace.

This story does the best job with the science. It's right at the edge of the worst-case scenarios for warming over the next fifty years, but it's upfront about that.

Established older couples are uncommon in SF, much less gay male ones, but the relationship depicted here is pitch perfect.

Last Gods, by Sam J. Miller, takes place in a more distant future where the seas have risen and the land is mostly ruined, so as far as we know, humanity hangs on in a string of villages down the coast. Backward and ignorant, the survivors worship orcas as gods. A young disbeliever wants to change things, and the narrator (a handicapped young woman and a true believer) helps him because she loves him.

The Future is Blue, by Catherynne M. Valente, deviates far from scientific rationality, but it's an allegory, so that's okay. The entire world is covered with water, but there is a civilization built on an enormous patch of garbage (think Texas-sized.) The narrator, a teen-age girl, is being punished for something awful that she did, and the story is about learning precisely what that was and why she did it.

Objectively, Garbagetown is a pretty horrible place, but the author manages to make us see it through the narrator's eyes, and to her, it's beautiful.

Other Reviews: Search Web,

5 & 4 Stories: 3;  Estimated Time: 1h:10m (21K words)
Recommended By Stories: 4;  Estimated Time: 1h:38m (29K words)
Total Stories: 14;  Estimated Time: 5h:42m (103K words)
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Rating: 5 -> Hugo-worthy

Destroyed By The Waters by Rachel Swirsky  Time: 20m (ShortStory)  IssueDrowned Worlds 2016
(Climate Change) Derek and Zack visit the underwater ruins of New Orleans, where they'd honeymooned fifty years before.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [5]  Recommended By: RSR:5

Rating: 4 -> Recommended

Last Gods by Sam J. Miller  Time: 20m (ShortStory)  IssueDrowned Worlds 2016
(Climate Change) On the edge of the ruined land, village people worship Orcas as gods. Unbeliever Kelb is up to something, and Adze tries to help him because she loves him.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4
The Future Is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente  Time: 29m (Novelette)  IssueDrowned Worlds 2016
(Post Apocalypse) Teenage Tetley lives in a human settlement (one of the last) built on a miles-wide floating garbage dump. She explains why everyone hates her now.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [4]  Recommended By: RSR:4 RHorton:5

Rating: 3 -> Average

Because Change Was The Ocean And We Lived By Her Mercy by Charlie Jane Anders  Time: 21m (ShortStory)  IssueDrowned Worlds 2016
(Post-Apocalypse) Pris abandons 22nd-Century Fairbanks and moves to a commune that floats above the ruins of San Francisco.
Brownsville Station by Christopher Rowe  Time: 35m (Novelette)  IssueDrowned Worlds 2016
(SF) A Junior Conductor has to deal with a serious problem on the high-speed train that traverses his giant, tubular, "city." A problem that seems to just keep getting worse.
Drowned by Lavie Tidhar  Time: 20m (ShortStory)  IssueDrowned Worlds 2016
(Post Apocalypse) Little Mai listens as her father tells the tale of Flora and Deuteronomy, who founded their settlement when the old world was ending.
Elves Of Antarctica by Paul McAuley  Time: 23m (ShortStory)  IssueDrowned Worlds 2016
(Near-Future SF) A refugee from a drowned island nation works on the Antarctic peninsula, where he studies mysterious stones with elven runes in his spare time.
Only Ten More Shopping Days Left Till Ragnarök by James Morrow  Time: 27m (Novelette)  IssueDrowned Worlds 2016
(Near-Future Fantasy) The narrator and his wife take a vacation to the North Pole, but after a tragic accident, they're enlisted in an effort to save the world.
Other Reviews  RSR Mini-Review [3]  Recommended By: RHorton:5
The Common Tongue, The Present Tense, The Known by Nina Allan  Time: 29m (Novelette)  IssueDrowned Worlds 2016
(Post Apocalypse) The narrator wants to be a scientist and help restore the Earth, like his uncle, but he'd also like to understand what happened to his uncle.

Rating: 2 -> Not Recommended

Dispatches From The Cradle: The Hermit -- Forty-Eight Hours In The Sea Of Massachusetts by Ken Liu  Time: 22m (ShortStory)  IssueDrowned Worlds 2016
(Post Apocalypse) Around 2650 AD, the narrator interviews a wealthy recluse who lives above the sunken ruins of Boston.
Inselberg by Nalo Hopkinson  Time: 08m (ShortStory)  IssueDrowned Worlds 2016
(Climate Change) A tour guide leads tourists through the remains of a flooded country.
The New Venusians by Sean Williams  Time: 30m (Novelette)  IssueDrowned Worlds 2016
(SF) Teenage Natasha gets sentenced to helping her somewhat crazy grandpa in his lab high in the Venusian atmosphere.
What Is by Jeffrey Ford  Time: 20m (ShortStory)  IssueDrowned Worlds 2016
(Apocalyptic) In 2025, the last survivors in drought-ravaged Oklahoma receive their last airdrop from the government.
Who Do You Love? by Kathleen Ann Goonan  Time: 33m (Novelette)  IssueDrowned Worlds 2016
(Apocalyptic SF) Zoe is covered with growths of coral from an experiment when she and Emile were young. Now he's back and still wants to change the world.

Rating: 1 -> Needs Improvement

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