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Review Dystopian visions of an Earth in meltdown

Exit Earth
Edited by Tomek Dzido
(Storgy Books, £12.99)

THE FOCUS of this ambitious Storgy anthology, mixing emerging talent with established writers of sf and fantasy, is the price humanity will pay if we continue to exploit each other and plunder the planet’s resources.

The tone may be persistently pessimistic, but a sombre theme is illuminated with an assortment of engaging, finely crafted and compelling stories.

The first section, comprising authors who took part in a Storgy competition, features How to Curate a Life by the overall winner Rachel Connors, who's come up with an affecting and innovative tale of loss, identity and data harvesting.

The other prizewinning stories, equally original and unsettling, include Duncan Abel’s Don’t Go to the Flea Museum. Set in a society based on extreme social cleansing, it highlights the physical and psychological impact of grinding poverty.

When the Tide Comes In by Joseph Sale is an apparently simple tale of unrequited love and intense friendship, but there’s an underlying sense of calamity in this multilayered and beautifully controlled piece of writing, freighted with compassion and emotional power.

In the book's second section, another arresting tale is Tomas Marcantonio’s The Superhero, a story of loss and attempted redemption set in a balkanised metropolis under the control of criminal gangs.

Other themes explored include mass euthanasia, corporately manufactured celebrity, politicisation of the female body and command and control technologies.

Toby Litt’s journey across a weird desert, Mike Carey’s alternate history of Tammany Hall, the 19th century political organisation that dominated New York politics and Courttia Newland’s disturbing tale of two schoolboys encountering a shadowy entity in an abandoned factory all make their mark.

This is a strong and varied anthology of dystopian fiction and even the less effective stories provoke and disturb. Crowd-funded, it’s an impressively produced book, with striking colour illustrations by a team of stylistically diverse artists, among them Crap Panther, Amie Dearlove, HarlotVonCharlotte and Rob Pearce.

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