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Drowned Worlds Paperback – July 12, 2016
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About the Author
Jonathan Strahan is the multi-award winning editor of such anthologies as Engineering Infinity, Fearsome Magics, The Best of Science Fiction & Fantasy, The Year’s Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many other ground-breaking collections of the very finest genre fiction.
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Drowned Worlds is a themed anthology by various authors, with stories set in drowned futures or shattered worlds. Each story is the author's look at how we, as a people, would move forward in desperate times.
From Mike looking for elfstones in The Elves of Antartica, to Carlo entertaining tourists around an underwater city in Venice Drowned, to chaos ensuing in What Is, Drowned Worlds is a book full of speculation as varied as the authors themselves. I wish is could say that I was blown away by the creativity housed within its pages, but Drowned Worlds was mostly forgettable for me. None of the alternate worlds really grabbed my attention and, although the writing style of the authors collectively was good, I was not mesmerized by the stories themselves. Readers who like short story collections set in speculative worlds may find Drowned Worlds to their liking, but this book missed the mark for me.
I was really attracted to the theme of this anthology, and although one or two of the stories didn’t quite hit the bullseye for me, a large majority of them did and in doing so showcased the depth of talent (see what I did there?!) the genre has to offer. Some of the featured writers are well-known, award winners in their own right and so you expect great things and thankfully they delivered.
I was impressed with the variety of stories on offer. All of the contributors created their own visions of what effects a drowned world would have upon us. I particularly enjoyed ‘Venice Drowned’ by Kim Stanley Robinson-a tale in which somebody makes a living by providing tours around the Italian Coast. Considering the length of the story, I had a real good idea of what the coast looked like thanks to the vivid descriptions. ‘Brownsville Station’ by Christopher Rowe provided another very different look as did ‘The Future is Blue’ by Catherynne M. Valente-a first-person narrative that stood up extremely well. James Morrow also provided a highlight with ‘Only Ten More Shopping Days Till Ragnorock – a great story about a couple who discover a strange community living in the North Pole.
Anthologies are a great way to find new authors. ‘Drowned Worlds’ has some really excellent stories inside and an appealing overarching theme. Science-fiction fans would be well advised to pick up a copy when released in early July.
In the introduction to the anthology, Strahan talks about reading J.G. Ballard's The Drowned World, which he calls "one of the great British disaster novels". He goes on to talk about following links from The Drowned World to Paul McAuley's The Choice, and Kim Stanley Robinson's The Wild Shore. All of these combined with the real world effects of climate change into the inspiration for this particular anthology. Looking at that inspiration, one might think that the reader is going to encounter many bleak visions of the world in the stories in Drowned Worlds, but the reality is anything but. There's a strong thread of hope which weaves through all of the stories--life always finds its way, and humanity endures, even if has been forced to change.
The authors featured in this anthology could be read almost as a who's who of groundbreaking science fiction writers working today. All of the stories in the anthology are excellent, and though several of them didn't resonate with me personally, they were still a very good read and likely a reader with different tastes to mine will pick them out as the strongest in the anthology.
Many of the stories are outstanding because of their use of voice, among them Christopher Rowe's Brownesville Station and Nalo Hopkinson's Inselberg. Catherynne M. Valente's The Future is Blue also falls into this category, combining a brilliant, unique voice with an technicolour world that is described with Valente's usual deft literary hand.
Many of the strongest stories in the anthology focus almost entirely on humanity and character's relationships with each other, with much of the changed/drowned world almost receding into the background. The characters and their lives are changed by the world, but they are not defined by it. There is so much hope in these kinds of stories, which include Paul McAuley's Elves of Antarctica, Kathleen Ann Goonan's Who Do You Love, Charlie Jane Anders' Because Change Was the Ocean and We Lived By Her Mercy, Nina Allen's The Common Tongue, The Present Tense and Rachel Swirsky's Destroyed by the Waters. Each of these stories has heartbreak, but there is also hope, and the assertion that even though the world has changed, humanity and individual humans will find a way to continue.
Also to be noted are two excellent stories which draw on mythology and belief: James Morrow's Only Ten More Shopping Days Left Till Ragnarok (which may be one of the most biting and brilliant titles I've read) and Sam Miller's Last Gods.
Fans of Sean Williams should also note the inclusion of his story The New Venusians, which ties into his Twinmaker universe. I've adored the novels and stories I've read in this universe, and this story is no exception.
Overall, Drowned Worlds is one of the best anthologies I've read, with every story strong and compelling. In another editor's hands, this could easily have become an anthology filled with doom and despair, and while the stories contained within absolutely acknowledge the grief and anger of a climate-change-wracked world, they also give the characters a quiet strength, and hope that no matter what, humanity will endure. The whole collection is highly recommended, with my personal favourites being the Valente, Morrow, Anders, Swirsky and Goonan.