Saturday, May 21, 2016

Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements, by Adrienne Marie Brown (editor), Walidah Imarisha (editor), Je Nie Fleming (narrator)

Audible Studios, April 2016 (original publication AK Press, 2015)

As the subtitle makes clear, this is an anthology with an agenda, and it's an agenda that will inflame certain parties in recent kerfuffles in the science fiction community.

That said, this is an enjoyable collection. The stories are varied in setting, viewpoint, and kind. There's an incipient uprising against both a hoard of zombies and the politically repressive response to the zombie hoard. There's a gentle story of a woman attempting to reconnect with both her dead grandfather and her very much alive daughter, in an alternate history where the Civil War started in 1859, and the slaves won. A woman has to decide how she's going to react to a government that's finally responding to global warming, in a way that may be both too much, and not enough. One choice will cut her off from her mother and the place she grew up; another will cut her off from her partner and her life now. Is there a third choice, and can she do it? A young man who is the token black superhero opts out of the nonsense--until he finds out how he matters to young people, and a away to make a contribution that matters to him.

The authors include names all sf readers will recognize, like Tananarive Due and Terry Bisson, and people who've never written sf, or even fiction, before. Possibly for that reason, there are a number of stories that I read and thought, that's a set-up for a story I'd like to read the rest of...

Having said that, while there are a number of "beginning, middle, no actual end" pieces, there's nothing here I didn't enjoy. There's nothing here that has that special sense you get when mainstream writers go slumming and assume that "science fiction means it doesn't have to make sense." All the writers here respect their readers and their material. The editors didn't excuse lesser work because they wanted a particular name or a particular theme included. Despite being an anthology with an agenda, there's no pounding the reader over the head, except to the extent that happens with any themed anthology when you read straight through rather than dipping in.

I'll carry away from it a particular fondness for "The Token Superhero," by David Walker, and "The River," by Andrienne Maree Brown.

I've been saying "read" throughout this review; that's a very loose usage. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator's voice is excellent, strong, clear, and expressive.

Recommended.

I received a free copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.