Tag Archives | Night Shade Books

Pump Six and other Stories| Paolo Bagigalupi

The cover of Bagigalupi's Pump SixOne 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).

The Windup Girl | Paolo Bacigalupi

The cover of Bacigalupi's The Windup GirlTime Magazine said it best in their blurb (printed inside the front cover): “Bacigalupi is a worthy successor to William Gibson: this is cyberpunk without computers.”

The Windup Girl is disturbing science fiction precisely because the future it imagines feels so real. From the first pages that describe Anderson’s search for a newly engineered blight-resistant fruit to the depraved handlers of the windup girl herself, everything feels plausible.

When you read about Anderson’s factory (complete with mastodon-like creatures that turn giant posts to generate power), you can almost feel the grit and smell the muggy stench.

This is not escapist fiction—this is fiction with a critical edge. The world has suffered major ecological collapse. Genetically engineered crops from the leading agribusinesses have (ironically) destroyed most of the world’s traditional food sources. (Does Wendell Barry read science fiction?) Racism and nationalism run wild in the collapse of society. Trade leaders become more powerful than politicians. There’s much to digest here.

Bacigalupi’s imagined world will stick in your memory long after the book’s finished. Here’s hoping for a sequel!

—Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl (San Francisco: Night Shade Books, 2009).

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