Children Of The New World: Stories – Alexander Weinstein
Children of the New World introduces readers to a near-future world of social media implants, memory manufacturers, dangerously immersive virtual reality games, and alarmingly intuitive robots. Many of these characters live in a utopian future of instant connection and technological gratification that belies an unbridgeable human distance, while others inhabit a post-collapse landscape made primitive by disaster, which they must work to rebuild as we once did millennia ago.
Review: This is exactly the type of short story collection I’ve been craving. After the first story, I completely fell in love with this book. The stories are character-driven dystopian science fiction. They deal with themes that are commonly found in sci-fi, including our dependence on technology and the destruction of the environment. However, the author tackles the themes in ways that make them feel real. The dystopian society in this book isn’t too different from our own society. The characters are relatable because they’re normal people in extraordinary situations.
“We were the first generation to grow up with layers, a group of kids who’d produced thousands of tutorials on blocking unwanted users but not a single one on empathy.” – Children of the New World
Unlike most story collections, I enjoyed every story in this book. Usually there are a few stories in each collection that I skim because they’re boring. That wasn’t the case with Children of the New World. The stories are each unique, but the dystopian setting makes them cohesive.
If I had to come up with a criticism, I’d say that some of the characters are too similar. There aren’t many women main characters in this book, even though most of the stories are about families. Almost all of the main characters are cynical middle-aged men. It gets repetitive.
“It all made me want to turn off my layers, go back to the old days, and stay disconnected. But you do that and you become another old guy buried in an e-reader, complaining about how no one sends emails anymore.” – Children of the New World
For me, these are the stand-out stories:
In “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” a young couple adopts a baby from China. To teach her about her culture, they also “adopt” a robot named Yang who comes programed with facts about Asia. When Yang malfunctions, the couple realizes that they love him just as much as they love their daughter.
In “Heartland,” a father considers selling pornographic photos of his children in order to support his family.
The title story, “Children of the New World,” is about an infertile couple who has virtual children. They’re devastated when a computer virus forces them to delete their kids.
“Rocket Night” reminds me of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” Elementary school students vote on which classmate they want to blast into space.
My favorite story is “Ice Age.” A small community of igloo-dwelling humans is completely focused on surviving the new ice age. Then, their wealthy neighbor melts the ice and rediscovers material possessions.
These stories are bizarre, funny, imaginative, and heartbreaking. If you’re new to short stories, this book is an excellent place to start. I know this is a short review, but if I made it any longer, I’d just be fangirling. Go read the book.