‘Castoff World’ by Kay Kenyon
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.