My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book isn’t a novel, it’s four novellas – but I like short fiction, so that’s fine. The stories are all united by “our present moment,” as the cover says. I think some are more successful than others, but they all capture a truth about what’s happening now.
“Unauthorized Bread” explores the ways that technology and laws can control poor people and take from them what little money and freedom they have. They fight back, and the story dives deep into exactly how they rebel with a satisfying level of detail. The happy ending, though, seems a bit strained, although I want to believe it.
“Model Minority” has one big plot hole the story can’t successfully explain away. How did the superhero American Eagle, who is not stupid, spend so many years on Earth in the United States and not know the basic facts about racism? The lectures to get him up to speed seem didactic – which doesn’t make them any less true. He learns there’s no super-strength shortcut to justice.
“Radicalized” left me with one question. In the story, people who have been screwed over by health insurance companies decide to take revenge against the executives who sentenced them or their loved ones to needless suffering and death. My question: Why isn’t this happening now? The anger is out there and easy to find.
“The Masque of the Red Death” is a modern retelling of an Edgar Allan Poe story. A rich guy holes up in a bunker to escape the ravages of a catastrophe. He and his friends are arrogant asshats, and they get what’s coming to them. It’s a brutal kind of fun to watch them fail while the key to survival lies elsewhere.
-- Sue Burke
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