Short stories and essays on shaping better futures for all, on our diverse homeworld - and, eventually, beyond!
Many of the stories hinge on similar themes, which makes for a satisfying, cohesive collection. But the similarities occasionally move beyond the thematic into the repetitive: names, settings, and professions recur without . The dialogue surrounding identity can be heavy-handed, and, although Wood takes inclusion seriously (he includes an addendum, which carefully outlines his approach to tackling identities other than his own), in practice his characters often announce their race and gender in clunky exposition.
The standout stories feel most complete and uniquely their own. The opening “Of Hearts and Monkeys,” following a clairvoyant older woman who finds a family in the midst of a viral pandemic, shines, as does “God in the Box,” the story of a psychologist reconnecting with her son after an encounter with “God.” The quick and devastating “Five Hundred Photons,” one of the bleakest pieces in an otherwise hopeful selection, offers a welcome change of pace. Some of the less grounded sci-fi pieces (“The Paragon of Knowledge” or “Thirstlands”) tackle too much for their length; as a result their worlds feel under-explored. But overall, Wood deftly combines African lore, futuristic technology, and societal critique in a poignant and moving collection.
Takeaway: Examining South Africa and society at large, these speculative short stories is perfect for fans of inclusive sci-fi with emotional urgency.
Great for fans of: Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City, Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A
He certainly writes science fiction well: as I hopefully made clear in the opening to this review, these stories evoked an emotional response in me; they made me want to turn the page, to understand more about the worlds they are set in, to care about the characters I discovered. And that means this middle aged white guy identified with all the variety in the volume. Wood’s stories are clearly founded in the canon of western SF; but they are just as clearly influenced by his personal story, and by his desire to show that all of the world can be part of the future. Strongly recommended.