Nathanial Garrod

Book Review: A People’s Future of the United States

In a beautiful intro, editor Victor LaValle describes the origin of the idea for A People’s Future of the United States – speculative fiction that derives in theme from Howard Zinn’s much beloved People’s History of the United States.

While I have not read the entirety of Zinn’s comprehensive history, I am familiar with much of the middle – as my wife and I listened to it a bit on our road trip to Utah this past spring. I would consider myself familiar enough to understand that Zinn truly focused on the people of the United States, the average person and the stories often swept under the rug. 

This collection of 25 stories cover the gamut of speculative fiction and not only represent authors that I hope are the future of this genre, but authors who are incredibly skilled at demonstrating what speculative fiction is and could be.

If someone who did not regularly read speculative fiction were to approach me tomorrow and ask for a recommendation, this would be it – it is a quick read, a well-organized collection and poised to ask the real questions those of us living in the states need to consider.

The collection starts with the inspiring and uniting The Bookstore at the End of America, by Charlie Jane Anders, which proposes a future where California separates from the United States and a bookstore straddles that line. This story is a hopeful reminder that there are things we all have in common – instead of falling apart around our differences, we need to find our places in common and move forward from there. 

Chapter 5: Disruption and Continuity [Excerpted]by Malka Older, imagines how a far future textbook tells of changes that are near-future. The faux-textbook style is marvelous and engaging, pushing the reader to continue out of curiosity and engagement – in its own way, it does what any textbook should do, yet all fail to do, which is one of the marvels of this story. 

An unnamed but familiar-seeming president watches TV in his wing of the White House in By his Bootstrapsby Ashok K. Banker when he receives an unexpected visitor and learns that a weapon he commissions to eliminate those unlike himself has an unintended impact.

N.K. Jemison imagines what would happen if dragons roamed the countryside of future America, and also vividly describes food in a way that in Give me Cornbread or Give me Death.

The stunning finale of this collection is Now We Wait for This Week by Alice Sola Kim, where she imagines the perspective of the roommate of a rich party girl experiencing groundhog day.

Overall this collection is fantastic – I do not typically read collections, and I found this one to be moving and stirring. Even the few stories that I felt moved slowly made sense in the collection and gave me reasons to self-reflect. One thing I enjoyed about this collection is that it was easy to pick up and put down in-between stories – a benefit of the short story collection that I had forgotten.

A People’s Future of the United States, edited by Victor LaVelle and John Joseph Adams is published by One World. It will be released on February 5th, 2019. It is 432 pages long, published in paperback and the ISBN is 9780525508809.

This review was done because I was able to get an eARC from netgalley. Thanks, netgalley!

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