Title: Diverse Energies
Author: Tobias S. Buckell (ed.)
Genre: Dystopian, Short Stories
Publisher: Tu Books
Received for review through NetGalley
Summary (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.
I’m not the hugest fan of short stories. I think there’s a really fine balance between a story not worth telling and a story worth giving a novel’s worth of words to develop. Balanced on the knife edge between those two things are the really successful short stories.
That doesn’t mean to say I don’t enjoy a lot of short stories I read – it’s just generally I enjoy them with a pinch of resentment, wishing that I had 300 pages, not 15. Most of the stories in Diverse Energies are no exception.
The premise of a culturally diverse book featuring protagonists from all cultures, with a bit of LGBT thrown in for good measure, was dreamt up in response to apparent ‘whitewashing’ of YA literature. I can’t say I know much about this, in all honesty, except to say that a lot of the YA books I read feature white, straight protagonists. I expect this has a lot to do with the fact that so many prominent YA writers are white and straight than inherent racism and homophobia in the genre – as the saying goes: write what you know, and I don’t feel we should criticise authors for doing that. But, equally, we shouldn’t pass over culturally diverse fiction, or LGBT fiction, just because of current trends. Who’s to say such a book wouldn’t start the next trend, anyway?
Diverse Energies, then, reads like a perfect sampler of different authors who write in these fields. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy reading any of the stories in the collection, despite my sometimes frustration that they were only short, though Ursula Le Guin and Daniel H. Wilson’s offerings were my particular favourites. Each story was exactly what it promised to be – a little pocket of another culture in a dystopian future, equal parts fascinating and frightening in most instances. I was unfamiliar with most of the authors, but I will definitely be on the lookout for opportunities to read their work.
And if everyone who reads Diverse Energies responds in the same way, then perhaps in the future it will be said that the trend of culturally diverse fiction started here.