Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

‘Castoff World’ by Kay Kenyon

with 3 comments

After the shock to the system of ‘Russian Roulette 2020′ and coming to the end of what has been a pretty poor anthology, ‘Castoff World’ is a pleasdant surprise. Not what I would describe as an optimistic story that was positive about the future though. I’d be more likely to reach for adjectives like “disquieting”.

As with so many of the stories in Shine, it takes place after a devestating environment collapse. Child’s family has fled the crumbling US to take up residency on a floating pile of rubbish in Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Since their arrival, both her parents have died, leaving her in the care of her granddad (who calls her “child” hence, slightly unbelieveably, her adoption of that as her name). So far, so optimistic.

Their pile of rubbish is actually something rather more sophisticated than just plastic junk. For a start it has a name: Nora. This stands for Nanobotic Oceanic Refuse Accumulator, it is a collection of nanobots that have been sent out into the Pacific gyre to collect the floating rubbish and render it down into tolerable elements. It ignores organic material so the stowaways are safe but Nora wages a war of attrition against their possessions. It is a novel and nicely evoked setting.

Once this concept is established, it is swiftly unravelled by an event that sends both Child and Nora off in a new direction. It is a new beginning but not necessarily an optimistic one because the rest of Child’s story is untold.

Near-future? Yes.
Optimistic? No.
Readable? Yes.
Good? Yes.

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Written by Martin

13 September 2011 at 14:44

Posted in sf, short stories

Tagged with ,

3 Responses

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  1. I thought this one was the best in the anthology, even if it was very reminiscent of The Road. In fact, it’s somewhat like The Road would be if it was written by a SF writer, with a chewy techno concept centre stage; that’s such an SF “thing” – think up a techno concept and build conflict around it. It’s the only story that engaged me emotionally, aside from At Budokan and Sarging Rasmussen which were at least funny.

    I’d say that these post-apocalyptic tales are somewhat optimistic in that they picture humanity picking itself up and dealing with its problems, rather than sinking into Mad Max/A Boy & His Dog-style beastliness or The Handmaid’s Tale/Children of Men dystopia. I think it says “bad things may happen, but we can handle it!” That’s more optimistic than “Oh Christ, we’re all doomed!”

    It’s hardly rare in SF, of course, but the whole “SF is so miserable!!!” thing that de Vries keeps banging on about is a load of hogwash.

    Patrick H

    14 September 2011 at 09:24

  2. Actually, I think the end of the story does hold open that possiblity. The suggestion that Child is gift from God leaves open multiple endings and, perhaps it is just my twisted brain, but lots of them involve beastliness. Perhaps it is optimistic for the world – the trash vortex gets eaten – but I’m not so optimistic about Child. I’d like to read more though.

    Martin

    14 September 2011 at 12:01

  3. [...] by Jason Andrew (Excerpt) ‘Russian Roulette 2020′ by Eva Maria Chapman (Excerpt) ‘Castoff World’ by Kay Kenyon (Excerpt) ‘Paul Kishosha’s Children’ by Ken Edgett (Excerpt) [...]


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