REVIEW: Solarpunk: Ecological and Fantastical Stories in a Sustainable World

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My latest eARC from LibraryThing is a short story collection featuring writers from Brazil and Portugal. Originally compiled by editor Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro, Solarpunk: Ecological and Fantastical Stories in a Sustainable World has been brought to the States by World Weaver Press with a solid English-to-Portuguese translation by Fabio Fernandes.

Cyberpunk and steampunk are ubiquitous, but what on Earth is solarpunk? The concept is what caught my eye because I had never heard of self-sustaining/sustainable “-punk” literature before. The preface quotes the editor as saying that “…as a reader, I was feeling rather bored myself with all those old dystopian plots” of other -punk genres. That said, this collection gets pretty damn depressing and isn’t as utopian as one would expect.

In the preface, Sarena Ulibarri mentions that more are more writings about solarpunk than there are solarpunk stories published. That may explain why so many weaker stories made it in there – slim pickings, I guess? It may also explain how delightfully diverse the collection is – Solarpunk contains everything from hardboiled noir to Lovecraftian lovechildren.

As I mentioned above, there quality of the stories vary wildly. I don’t think this was a lost-in-translation issue, but some of them were way too awkwardly-worded and description-heavy. It’s difficult to balance a sci-fi short in a way that the reader has just enough context to both understand a whole new world and be impacted by what’s happening in it. A couple of the stories were straight-up cringe-worthy. Some of the stories, especially the fun-titled “Soylent Green is People!” and “Cobalt Blue and the Enigma,” would have probably been amazing novella or novel-length reads, but felt very rushed and inadequate in the anthology.

“Xibalba Dreams of the West” is a story that I wish was a novel, but only because it was so good. It removes colonizers from the history books and looks at a modern Mayan-descended society that combines tradition and technology in awesome but also unsettling ways. “Xibalba” and the horror tale “Gary Johnson” are the standouts in the collection; the latter takes the solarpunk concept and places it in a Victorian era with Lovecraftian abject terror (and the Lovecraftian racism).

This anthology had its strong points, but they’re not worth slogging through the whole book. It was a weak introduction to an interesting genre.

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