(World Weaver Press, June 5, 2018, pb, 283 pp.)
Reviewed by Victoria Silverwolf
Solarpunk is a recently developed category of science fiction, generally optimistic in outlook, which deals with renewable energy and other forms of sustainable technology. Although often set after a time of devastating climate change or some other environmental disaster, it depicts futures in which these problems can be overcome through cooperation and wise use of resources. Editor Sarena Ulibarri presents seventeen new stories in this rapidly emerging subgenre.
In “Caught Root” by Julia K. Patt, a representative from a high-tech city visits a place that is closer to nature. She learns that both philosophies are necessary to build a better future. This is a quiet, thoughtful story, which many will find unexciting.
“The Spider and the Stars” by D. K. Mok takes place over many years. A child’s interest in spiders eventually leads her to develop advanced technology. Best suited for young adults, this is an inspirational story about following one’s dreams.
“Riot of the Wind and Sun” by Jennifer Lee Rossman takes place in a community established in abandoned mines in Australia. During an aerial census, the inhabitants make use of a special resource to draw the attention of the surveyors. This story is pleasant, if undramatic.
A wall of compressed seawater protects the city of Los Angeles in “Fyrewall” by Stefani Cox. The protagonist and two troubled teenagers must work together when damage to the wall threatens to engulf the city with fire. The author has a gift for believable characterization, but the speculative element is much less plausible.
In “Watch Out, Red Crusher!” by Shel Graves, people have solar-powered nanotechnology inside their bodies. This leads to the unexpected side effect of glowing skin colors that reveal their emotions. A young woman struggles to change her own color from a depressed blue to a happier shade, while dealing with a potentially dangerous young man who glows red with anger. The story’s premise, possibly intended as an allegory for accepting one’s emotions, is difficult to believe.
The narrator of “The Call of the Wold” by Holly Schofield is an elderly woman who chooses to leave the city and travel through rural areas on her own. She arrives at a communal settlement, intending to remain for a short time. The hereditary leader of the community, unsure how to deal with conflicts, makes use of her experience with negotiation. She faces the dilemma of leaving, depriving the settlement of her ability to handle disputes, or staying, losing her independence. Told in a lightly humorous style with a great deal of wordplay, this is an enjoyable story with an appealing main character.
The title of “Camping With City Boy” by Jerri Jerreat accurately describes the story’s plot. A young woman who knows and loves the outdoors takes her urban boyfriend on a canoe trip and learns his true personality. Although this story is full of futuristic touches, they serve only as background details.
“A Field of Sapphires and Sunshine” by Jaymee Goh takes place long after wealthy people escaped environmental disaster by going underground. In a restored world, the protagonist returns to her native Malaysia after studying in the United States. The conclusion reveals how her family’s business involves the so-called Old Rich of the past, in a scene that many will find shocking.
In “Midsummer Night’s Heist” by Commando Jugendstil and Tales from the EV Studio, young people orchestrate a series of strange events in the city of Milan, in order to distract the police from their real project. Their scheme combines art and biology to make a political statement. The story moves at a breakneck pace. Created by a communal set of authors, it may seem disjointed to some readers.
“The Heavenly Dreams of Mechanical Trees” by Wendy Nikel adds a touch of fantasy to the anthology. In a future world without trees, artificial replacements convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. The story alternates the thoughts of one such ersatz tree with the efforts of a woman to figure out a way to allow them to reproduce. The way in which this happens is more mystical than scientific.
“New Siberia” by Blake Jessop is the only story in the book not set on Earth. Humanity leaves its unlivable native planet and arrives at a world inhabited by aliens, who allow people to settle in an undesirable part of the planet. The plot involves a human being and an alien who must work together to survive when disaster strikes. The author creates an intriguing extraterrestrial.
“Grover: Case #C09 920, ‘The Most Dangerous Blend'” by Edward Edmonds is a mystery set at a station where technicians use gravity to control the weather. The advanced technology serves as an exotic murder weapon. Otherwise, this is a typical whodunit.
In “Amber Waves” by Sam S. Kepfield, a married couple struggles to protect their crops from destructive weather and the interference of a large agricultural corporation. This is a very realistic account of the many challenges farmers must face, now and in the future.
“Grow, Give, Repeat” by Gregory Scheckler takes place in a world facing food shortages. Science creates an organism, both plant and animal, to be used as an affordable source of nutrition. The episodic plot involves a girl, her robot doll, her chickens, and the new technology. The story is imaginative, but wanders around from incident to incident.
A vehicle that can both fly and walk over rough landscapes carries a library to an isolated community in “Cable Town Delivery” by M. Lopes da Silva. Its arrival inspires a girl who lives in the small town, in which cable cars connect dwellings built on the ruins of skyscrapers. The plot is simple, but the setting is interesting.
In “Women of White Water” by Helen Kenwright, a woman who may have psychic powers becomes involved in a love triangle. Other than the possible extrasensory perception of the protagonist, the story’s speculative elements are irrelevant.
“Under the Northern Lights” by Charlotte M. Ray begins with a woman crashing her homemade blimp into a pond. The narrator helps her out of the water, and together they restore and improve her vehicle, which she intends to use on an unusual quest. For the most part, this is an ordinary love story.
Victoria Silverwolf prefers autumn to summer.