RED Book 28: Pump Six and Other Stories – Paolo Bacigalupi

It’s been a while since I did a book of short stories. I got this book through Humble Bundle’s first ebook bundle. For those that haven’t heard of them Humble Bundle usually specialise in “indie” computer games. They sell based on a “pay what you want” basis with some money going to charity and the files are unencumbered by DRM. I bought one of their earlier bundles because I wanted to support the business model which I like (particularly the no-DRM part). Anyway I now have an extra 12 books on my TBR list so I thought I’d better read at least one.

I’d heard of Bacigalupi and already owned The Windup Girl, but hadn’t read him. All I really knew was that he was well regarded and could be broadly considered “steampunk”.

When you’re trying to review a collection of stories you naturally tend to look for themes or similarities. This is perhaps unfair to some of the individual stories but I’m going to do it anyway because otherwise I need to review each story in turn and I don’t have the time or the heart for that.

I suppose there are two things that stand out for me that came through in nearly all the stories. The first is that Bacigalupi’s style veers toward a lot of description of the background details. This isn’t something I always enjoy but I know that for some it puts you right there in that world and makes it feel rich and complete. The second is that the stories are almost all kind of morality tales. They take a trend that’s occurring in our current time and extrapolate it into a possible future and show the ill effects this might have, whether that’s patented GM crops in The Calorie Man or global warming’s effect on water conservation with The Tamarisk Hunter. Again, potentially this isn’t something I will always enjoy because it can veer toward preachy but I think it most cases it avoided being too directly that.

My favourites were Pump Six – the tale of a society in decline where no-one is any longer interested in the technology that supports their lifestyle, Pop Squad – the story of a future where the trade-off for constant re-juvenation is enforced infertility, The Fluted Girl – about body modification gone mad, and The People of Sand and Slag – about the effects of physical invulnerability.

7/10 – definitely a good collection, some gems here.


About shuggie

My name is Shuggie, Paul or LatePaul depending on where you know me from. I work in computers (databases) and occasionally write about softw
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