AN EXTRAORDINARILY RESONANT AND PROPHETIC COLLECTION OF SPECULATIVE SHORT FICTION FOR OUR TECH- SAVVY ERA BY DEBUT AUTHOR ALEXANDER WEINSTEIN
Children of the New World introduces readers to a near-future world of social media implants, memory manufacturers, dangerously immersive virtual reality games, and alarmingly intuitive robots.
AN EXTRAORDINARILY RESONANT AND PROPHETIC COLLECTION OF SPECULATIVE SHORT FICTION FOR OUR TECH-SAVVY ERA BY DEBUT AUTHOR ALEXANDER WEINSTEIN
Children of the New World introduces readers to a near-future world of social media implants, memory manufacturers, dangerously immersive virtual reality games, and alarmingly intuitive robots. Many of these characters live in a utopian future of instant connection and technological gratification that belies an unbridgeable human distance, while others inhabit a post-collapse landscape made primitive by disaster, which they must work to rebuild as we once did millennia ago.
In The Cartographers, the main character works for a company that creates and sells virtual memories, while struggling to maintain a real-world relationship sabotaged by an addiction to his own creations. In Saying Goodbye to Yang, the robotic brother of an adopted Chinese child malfunctions, and only in his absence does the family realize how real a son he has become.
Children of the New World grapples with our unease in this modern world and how our ever-growing dependence on new technologies has changed the shape of our society. Alexander Weinstein is a visionary new voice in speculative fiction for all of us who are fascinated by and terrified of what we might find on the horizon."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-08-01
- Reviewer: Staff
Touching on virtual families, climate change, implanted memories, and more, Weinstein’s debut collection of digital-age sci-fi stories is scary, recognizable, heartbreaking, witty, and absolutely human. In “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” Jim has to shut down a malfunctioning Yang—a humanoid who has been a “Big Brother” to Jim’s adopted daughter for three years. In “The Cartographers,” Adam designs and sells manufactured memories, until he gets so hooked on testing his software that he can no longer tell which memories are his own. “Heartland” shows a Midwest where topsoil is a precious commodity, and when a father loses his job “installing gardens,” he resorts to exploiting the cuteness of his children to make ends meet. In the virtual-driven world of the title story, a couple lose their digital children to a reboot when they download a virus in the “Dark City.” The disturbing and darkly funny “Rocket Night” features parents who gather annually to decide which least-liked child in the elementary school will be launched on a rocket to space. Complete with footnotes from fictional future publications and technology that is just one leap away, this is mind-bending stuff. Weinstein’s collection is full of spot-on prose, wicked humor, and heart. Agent: Leigh Feldman, Leigh Feldman Literary Agency. (Sept.)
The pains of modern living
Imagine a world where you bear children only to watch them “die” when your gaming system is hacked and requires a reboot, or where contact lenses act as social media implants that live-stream every moment of your life. These are just two of the brave new worlds that creative writing professor Alexander Weinstein has envisioned in Children of the New World, a bold debut collection of speculative short stories.
Many of the stories deal with our culture’s growing dependence on new technologies and the profound isolation and boredom that this dependence creates. In “Migration,” families are quarantined inside their houses, their needs met through total online connectivity. One day, in an act of familiar teenage rebellion, the son steps into the outside world. The frightened father follows, only to find him playing with a tennis ball. When questioned about his actions, the son responds, “You know whenever I play Tennis, the ball always bounces smoothly and makes the same sound. But that’s not what happens in real life.” This theme reappears throughout the book—characters live in tailored, ideal virtual realities, and yet they’re bored to death. Weinstein deftly captures technology’s limitations and leaves the reader to ponder the beauty found in the real world’s imperfections.
Ultimately, what is most remarkable, and chilling, about many of these stories is their resemblance to our current times. Think Her rather than “Star Trek” or Minority Report. Discomfiting as they may be, these characters’ desires and frustrations are familiar as they navigate worlds increasingly devoid of human connection. The stories in this collection, while wildly imaginative, also read as a sort of cautionary tale. As we push our dependence on new technologies further than ever before, one can’t help feeling that we may be closer to these imagined worlds than we think.