I was so excited when I saw this at the library. Dystopian novels (well, good ones) are some of my favorite books and authors lately. And I was over the moon when I saw Veronica Roth had contributed a story for this. I love her work so far. This was a strange collection, though, for me. Yes, all the stories were set in dystopian settings but in a number of the stories, the setting is incidental. Unlike books like Matched or Divergent or Hunger Games, where the future world and its problems drive the story, several stories in this were more like fantasy than dystopian–fantasy in a dystopian setting. They weren’t bad stories, per say I just thought they seemed out of place in this collection. But maybe I misunderstood the point of the collection? At any rate, it was an enjoyable set of stories, one of my favorite short story collections so far (and even better by comparison, being read so soon after Zombies vs Unicorns).
Here’s a breakdown by authors:
Veronica Roth: Like I said, I was SO EXCITED to see she had a short story. This was one of the fantasy stories set in a dystopian world, though. Really interesting. Libba-Bray-points to her for a diverse set of characters, for having two of the main characters be a short Indian girl (and her family) and a heavily freckled awkward boy. The concept of Hearkeners was interesting, although not necessarily believable in this setting. I think it would have been better as high fantasy, but that’s just my opinion. I also know nothing about string theory, so who knows? Maybe this is totally believable. I just don’t get WHY it would gain such importance in the culture as described in this story. Anyway, it was interesting, even though I didn’t much care for Darya (and am starting to pick up a trend of mother issues in Roth’s writing).
Kelly Armstrong: I’ve read several of her works, both novels and short stories, and enjoyed them. But I noticed they all sounded very similar, in tone and events, if not in characters. So I was pleasantly surprised when this story was totally different from her regular stories. OK, there were werewolves and other supernatural beings. But otherwise it was a new and creative story for her, that reminded me a little of Defiance (except GOOD) and Matched and Under the Never Sky. I still am a little confused about the ending–if their outcome was totally expected and planned for, or not, but otherwise I enjoyed it, and would like to read more set in this world setting.
Margaret Stohl: This was also a really creative story, totally different from Beautiful Creatures. It made me think of Cinder and Firefly, with its futuristic Asian setting. I took awhile to warm up to the story, both the concept of the raindrop necklaces and to the main characters. But once I really got the necklace idea, it seemed chillingly possible–actuarial logic taken to the utmost degree in a corporate-run world. And I have to admit that I did not see that ending coming! I didn’t love the writing style, but the story won me over anyway, and I wanted to be happy and hope for Z and Jai.
Rachel Caine: Dark and beautiful. The idea of a corporate-run world with poor people as modern, disposable serfs was chillingly believable and terrible. The story arc felt inevitable, but no less beautiful for it. This didn’t feel like YA. I loved it. Reminded me of the Clockwork Fagan story in Steampunk! and of the Lies of Locke Lamora, among others. Really well done. Possibly the best story in this book.
Nancy Holder: Weird and creepy. I couldn’t understand at all what the dystopian setting had to do with the actual story arc until the very end, but even then there was no “aha” moment. Just a *shrug* instead. The readiness with which the main character went off with a total stranger, who she could tell was compelling her obedience, regardless of what she wanted–um, NO. And I didn’t think the fantasy and dystopian elements meshed well. I didn’t really like any of it.
Melissa Marr: Incredibly dark. That’s a huge shock from Melissa Marr, right? The idea of a “god” reappearing doesn’t mesh with my personal beliefs, so that was a bit distracting. What a gross god too! Like the worst deities in Dungeons and Dragons. The main characters were alright (although Harmony’s obsession with ritual got old fast, I found her hope for a better god out there somewhere sympathetic), and I was pleasantly surprised by where the story went. Didn’t love it, though. Some of the visuals from the story are still stuck in my head (corpse soup=UGH!).
Kami Garcia: Like the rest, this was an interesting story, with a creative concept. The whole burn element was unusual (I have no idea if it’s scientifically possible or sound.), and led to the existence of one of the creepiest villains/ monsters in this collection–Skinners. *shivers* There was a lingering sadness to this story. It was enjoyable, though.
Beth Revis: I haven’t read anything else by Beth Revis yet, so I was interested to read this, especially as it’s set in the same world as her books. Based on this, I’d read the books. I didn’t love the characters, either Mag or Orion or the doctor, and obviously not Eldest, but the setting was a fascinating and scary sci-fi world. Also interesting to note that I had an idea for a story back when I was in high school that involved a character concept very like the Recorder. I know that really has no bearing on the story, but it caught my attention.
Carrie Ryan: A dark and lovely story. My favorite Carrie Ryan story I’ve read so far. A little like Masque of the Red Death, from the perspective of someone poor, instead of someone partying with the wealthy. I didn’t buy this as dystopian, so much, but it was lovely fantasy, with the creepy bird-beaked “doctors” and the plague-eating monsters. It took awhile for me to warm up to Charles, but Frankie was pretty likable in a determined and loyal way, and it’s difficult not to feel sorry for her and Cathy and their mom. This was a nice story to end this collection.
All things considered, a good collection. I’d definitely try other collections by these two editors.