Darwin’s Bastards: Astounding Tales from Tomorrow, edited by Zsuzsi Gartner (Douglas & McIntyre), is a collection of new speculative short fiction from Canadian literary writers. The quality and originality vary wildly, which isn’t surprising with more than four hundred pages of material on offer.
Many of the stories in Darwin’s Bastards try too hard to explain the different technologies or the political/environmental events that have changed the world; the best ones simply immerse the reader in a story with strange and unexpected elements. The best are “Love in the Pneumatic Tube Era” by Jessica Grant, in which the only way separated lovers can reunite is by riding cross-country under a big-rig truck; “I Found Your Vox” by Elyse Friedman, in which a man falls in love with a woman whose iPod-type device he has found; and the wonderful “Large Garbage” by Buffy Cram, in which the narrator is disillusioned with his comfortable life and drawn to the new homeless intelligentsia who hold salons in the homes of people who are out at work.
There’s something for everyone, or almost everyone, in this collection.