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Brave New Love: 15 Dystopian Tales of Desire Paperback – February 14, 2012
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San Francisco Book Review/Sacramento Book Review
“Teens and adults will delight in the short fiction contributed to this title by fifteen of today’s hottest dystopian writers… I enjoyed seeing fifteen different worlds for the price of one book and I loved the fact that this compilation was filled with diversity of race and sexual orientation. I haven’t seen very many anthologies deal with dystopian environments, but I do think that Brave New Love did it well, and the obvious play on Huxley’s Brave New World title is relevant and smart. The volume reads fast and gives the reader much to ponder. Highly recommended.”
"A fascinating anthology with strong writers contributing their best. With stories ranging on the spectrum from blatant in-your-face problems to subtle commentary and abstract points about society the collection has a short story for every reader to enjoy.”
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The subtitle is a bit misleading- "desire" is often an alternative word for erotica, and that was NOT true here. Some of the loves were fulfilled and some doomed, but there was nothing explicit, if that matters.
I'd say it's suitable for mid-teens through adults, because the writing is generally pretty sophisticated.
The dystopias varied wildly, both in details and in the writing; some stories were almost hyper-realistic, while others were much more dreamlike and evocative. It was a well thought out blend, w2ith a very good arrangement of the stories.
Highly recommended, especially for those of us who rather like dystopias, but also like there to be some hope.
Just a small disclaimer, I have nothing against gay/lesbian/bi/etc. couples, I am critiquing the writing only.
This book had the "brave" and some of the "new", but love was lacking in some of the stories. Please be aware that five of these stories do have gay/lesbian/bi themes so if you don't like it, skip those stories. They will be noted in the individual reviews below.
HIDDEN RIBBON by John Shirley
4.5 stars- Good world building, a fast paced story, and a sweet romance. Classic dystopian world with a sealed bubble that only the elite can live and thrive in and the rest of the contaminated world for the rest of them. Girl gets invited in, boy loves her and can't go, and conflict ensues.
THE SALT SEA AND THE SKY by Elizabeth Bear
2.5 stars- Two girls, in a world where women are only allowed to procreate with a man or run away. The main character only has her heart set on running away and seemingly is indifferent to Shaun, the love of her life. Shaun proclaims her love to Billie several more times, but the characters were flat and the situation was further exacerbated by cliched lesbian stereotypes. The story just didn't have a very strong foundation.
IN THE CLEARING by Kiera Cass
4.5 stars- A great dystopian society coupled with a group that has essentially "defected" made for a great short story. This rogue group have made themselves 'Borrowers' of a sort by taking essentials from the proper society. This story could definitely become a novel, even if the idea was already written in UNDER THE NEVER SKY. Great character building in such a small allotment of pages.
OTHERWISE by Nisi Shawl
3.5 stars- Gritty and rough, two lesbians (one bi) plan an escape to a safe compound to find Aim's boyfriend. Oh, and they randomly pick up a kid. Being dropped in mid-story doesn't help matters and it kept me confused until the end. However, there are no lesbian stereotypes and the "in your face" characters were endearing. As far as dystopians go, there's no clear reason why the world fell apart and in this case a reason would really help the story.
NOW PURPLE WITH LOVE'S WOUND- Carrie Vaughn
3.5 stars- A very dull and overused storyline, this story is not distinctly dystopian. A middle class girl is chosen to be the wife of the Warlord's son. The question is, was she made to love him by serum or has she always loved him? The son's a wimp, lamenting about how he loves her but can't trust her love is real. The girl, meanwhile, dangerously explores ways to prove her love, yadda yadda. Dull, cliched, and had me rooting for no one's happiness.
BERSERKER EYES by Maria V. Snyder
5 stars- I have always loved Maria V. Snyder's stories, and this one is no exception. We're thrown right in the thick of things and the story unfolds with the perfect amount of information given at just the right times. There's great world building in such a short span of "time" and beautifully polished characters. The characters are deliciously dark and brooding and the story is constructed wonderfully.
AROSE FROM POETRY by Steve Berman
2 stars- Another unfortunate gay couple built of stereotypes. The story started out promising with a strong lead named Tetch, but it was negated completely by weak and wimpy Allard who is young, privileged, and pretty and that's pretty much it. Very short and not very sweet, the kiss at the end is overshadowed by the very unbelieveable "whoah, even though I'm a teen, I have all of a sudden realized I'm gay RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT and this has never occurred to me before!" Come on, please.
RED by Amanda Downum
4.5 stars- A lesbian couple comprised of one human and one zombie. I sense a new and promising story! There's fantastic world building and characterization with a few major stereotypical relationships thrown in. I actually enjoyed this spin.
FOUNDLINGS by Diana Peterfreund
4 stars- Twin sisters, one pregnant and one not. Mix in a hot young male agent and a freaky government spy program for young unwed teens, and this could go several directions. Good characterization and decent, plausible actions made for a good read.
SEEKERS IN THE CITY by Jeanne DuPrau
4 stars- Two pre-teens catch a glimpse of one another and make it their mission to find each other once more. Sweet, but a little juvenile and pointless lacking a moving plot like her previous novel (which I loved) THE CITY OF EMBER.
THE UP by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
4 stars- A civilization living underground can't sustain their lifestyle and must leave their settlement to go above ground to survive is a bit of a worn plot, but this story has some unique sparks to it. The fact that there is communication between other settlements is new, as is the knowledge of the above world. There are careful inbreeding rules enforced that made the plot a bit more realistic (honestly, you'd think that most dystopian writers don't think through their worlds). This story is mostly a compilation of previously used ideas, but it was a good read nonetheless.
THE DREAM EATER by Carrie Ryan
4.5 stars- Dark and confusing, the main male character is in love with the Cruce, a girl chosen to come every night and take any memories associated with pain or shame from the entire settlement. She's disgusting and horrible, yet every night the male lead remembers he loved this girl before she became the Cruce, just for a moment before it's taken from him. Good, but confusing.
357 by Jesse Karp
4 stars- Brilliant world building but super confusing, the protagonist falls in love with a girl who may or may not exist and goes in search of her in the building where each floor is inaccessible from the rest. There are 357 known floors and secrets abound.
ERIC AND PAN by William Sleator
2.5 stars- One of the lamest stories in this entire anthology. This story is also about two gay boys who sneak around and see each other secretly. That's it. No clear worldly civilization distress, just two flat characters making gaga eyes at each other. Disappointing.
THE EMPTY POCKET by Seth Cadin
2 stars- I honestly could not make heads or tails out of this story. I just know it involves minds, computers, and deserts. I couldn't even find the love or the bravery.
The editor is brilliant in the choices made for this book, and while it is not a mainstream book, if confused and twisted future worlds are your destination, this book is your ticket to those worlds.
As a disclaimer, I have nothing against homosexual relationships, it just doesn't particularly float my boat to read about them since I can't personally relate. About half the stories in this book are about homosexual relationships. Had I known that beforehand, I probably wouldn't have purchased the book. I like romances because I can imagine myself as the heroine and how it feels falling in love, which I can't do when it's a homosexual relationship.
Regardless of some of the stories being about homosexual relationships, most of the stories just were not well written and were simply not engaging. Some of them were just plain hard to follow due to all the unexplained dystopian future terminology.
The only stories I actually liked were:
In the Clearing
Now Purple with Love's Wound
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