Review published on October 1, 2017.
If current events don’t provide you with sufficient levels of terror about the future, may I politely point you towards 2084, a new collection of short stories set in the eponymous year, each painting a different picture of what our lives may look like a century after the dystopian vision presented to us in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. From environmental crisis to technological innovation, there’s something for everyone here.
Dave Hutchinson’s Babylon opens the anthology, with a tale that echoes the current global refugee crisis with imaginative futuristic interference; it’s followed by Here Comes the Flood by Desirina Boskovich – one of the collection’s strongest narratives – in which cities have given up on collective survival and it’s now every man for himself. In both stories, the question of how to respond to the challenges of displacement caused by conflict or climate is raised in chilling style, really demonstrating the collection’s frightening resonance.
The story A Good Citizen presents us with democracy on an absurd scale, with elections held weekly to determine the direction of society; The Endling Market gives us an all-too-believable vision of a world in which species become extinct, creating a morally reprehensible market for the last of each animal; Saudade Minus One (S-1=) showcases author Irenosen Okijie’s devastating eye for disturbing sci-fi, with some frankly alarming imagery of the lengths to which people will go to hold on to their legacy. While there are common themes and motifs running through 2084, with space featuring more than once and modern technologies taken to their most nightmarish possibilities, the range and breadth of ideas on display in the collection is breath-taking.
In 2084‘s introduction, George Sandison somewhat paradoxically writes, “this is not a book about the future”, as with all dystopian fiction, it’s rather a book about the present and the mistakes we’re making now which could drastically impact on our future. It’s a warning, strongly sounded, with its depictions of climatological disaster, humanitarian crisis and terrifying technology. Crucially, while certainly inventive, none of the collection’s realities seem inconceivable; if a reader was to alternate each story with watching a few minutes of the news, I wonder whether they’d always be able to tell the difference, which is the mark of truly excellent speculative fiction.
Katy Goodwin-Bates 5/5
2084 by Various
Unsung Stories 9781907389504 pbk Jul 2018