Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pump Six and Other Stories

Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi

A collection of science fiction short stories, some but not all set in the same universe. Confirms Bacigalupi as one of the most effective writers of modern times, showing an incredible command of language, intensity of situation, and range of emotions.

Fairly dark stuff in here, with most of the stories concerning environmental collapse and the resultant suffering, austerity, adaptation and compromised morality that accompanies such an event. Even in a situation without hope the stories avoid simplistic moral censure or flat despair, instead pointing to the complexity and strong human connection that runs even in a self-inflicted apocalypse. The best story here by far is "The Yellow Card Man", but there's not a bad one in here, and a number of pieces deserve to stand as classics of the genre.

Similar to and better than: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. That novel is an expansion of several of the author's previous short stories, and brings similar virtues to play. However it's ultimately a lot less energetic and has a few dubious commitments in pace and theme, and only occasionally summons the same type of murky moral intensity commonly on display in these stories.

Similar to and worse than: Story of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. Ultimately Chiang's short stories show equal command of language and intensity while offering more variety, from hard science fiction to mythological fantasy. Each author is awesome in producing atmosphere along with and linked to story, but Chiang's pieces ultimately feature a more fascinating picture of human futures and alternate pasts.

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