One of the most profitable ways to interpret apocalyptic literature is to consider what the words meant to the original hearers. Revelation, for example, was a worship text for the early church which gave them the confidence to persevere in trial. In an analogous way, Bagigalupi’s collection of short dystopian fiction speaks volumes to our present reality.
I purchased this collection because two of the short stories it contains (“Yellow Card Man” and “The Calorie Man”) were precursors to The Windup Girl. These stories were nominated for the Hugo award and won the Sturgeon Award, respectively. As powerful as these stories were, I was captivated by some of the other stories just as much. Each story, regardless of the mechanics, illustrates some of the trajectories of our world, pursued ad infinitum. “The Fluted Girl” is a story about genetic engineering and politics gone awry. “Pop Squad” explores the quest for eternal life, along with its dark corollaries.
The title story was perhaps the best of the lot. If you’re concerned at all about societal tendencies towards distraction and hedonism, “Pump Six” explores how far down that road we could go as a society, wrapped up in a compelling mystery story.
Pump Six is a disturbing but important collection of stories that describe a world left to its selfish devices—apocalypticism without the hope.
—Paolo Bagigalupi, Pump Six and Other Stories (San Francisco: Night Shade Books, 2008).