Somewhere over the horizon...

Weinstein's cautionary tales of fallibility and human failings will keep you on the edge
Book Info
Title: 
Children of the New World
Author: 
Alexander Weinstein
Publisher: 
Text Publishing

Alexander Weinstein’s debut collection of short stories Children of the New World (2016) is brought to Australia by Text Publishing. These are cleverly conceived and finely crafted stories set in a future that could be tomorrow or could be 2032.  Dystopian, speculative, sci-fi: all three, or take your pick. Weinstein imagines a range of scenarios all centred around human relationships which show how corporatisation, robots and artificial intelligence reduce us to the lowest common denominator.

The futures drawn here are variously post-normal childbirth, post-colour, post-touch, post-talk and post-the-icefall. Two things there are still plenty of, in many different forms, are self-interest and greed.  These human fallibilities are on show big time in these stories which I ate up like a bucket of deep-fried chicken.  You know that shit is full of bad stuff and is just going to make you feel hopeless, helpless and depressed but you keep on chowing down because it’s moreish and tasty, right? 

Abe seeking Transcendence in a world where consciousness has been corporatized; Dad in ‘Migration’ is a teacher with extra penile projections for his avatar who has multiple daily on-line trysts with his student’s avatars; Andy’s relationship fails when his lover cannot picture him in her future.  All Weinstein’s protagonists inhabit futures which are uniformly bleak and characterised by disconnection. I acknowledge we don’t read just for escapist feel-good fantasies and, as I have said, I found it compelling and addictive reading. 

However, if Weinstein’s objective is to scare us into rewriting our future, steering AI toward a more nature-friendly, humane future, we need something a little more hopeful to be seeded through his tales. The most uplifting and promising pages of this book were the two at the end headed ‘ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS’ as there I read that Weinstein has many human connections that mean a great deal to him.

 

Reviewed by Pamela Greet