Books

Review – Por Mundos Divergentes / By Divergent Worlds

Dystopias - they are always grounded on our reality. Sometimes they diverge slightly, sometimes deeply. They give us a taste of things to come, warning us about possible futures if we don’t choose wisely. This anthology reflects some of the issues that already afflict us. May these tales be a warning to us all.

Patriarca (Patriarchy) by Ricardo Dias

In certain passages this tale reminds me of one of the most well-known dystopias: George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. More than an imitation, it is a tribute (as stated among its pages). The author tries to update the story, reflecting the current concerns on the lack of privacy and how this can be even worse in a totalitarian regime which aims to have absolute control of its population. If in the work of Orwell we have the Big Brother, here we have the Patriarch (I will not spoil the story by revealing what it is). In Nineteen Eighty-Four we have control of history, here we have vigilance and how far it can go and what remains for us as personal space.

Although it is a theme that appeals to me and a subject that becomes more and more concerning by the day, I would like to have seen it more deeply explored. The tale was shallow, below its full potential. The infodumps did not help. I recognize the need to deliver context, but a short story does not have much room for it. The outcome lacks balance between information and moments of action, leaving the concept “Show, don’t tell” far beyond. There are some flaws in the revision, fortunately few, but some that cause us to momentarily stop the reading to check if it was due to the reader or due to a failure. That affects the reading rhythm. A story with (a lot of) potential, but that falls short of the expectation.

Em Asas Vermelhas (In Red Wings) by Nuno Almeida

Image by Pixabay

I recently saw the movie Alita Battle Angel and its background is very similar to the one on In Red Wings: a war that destroyed the world, two contiguous cities: one where the elite lives; another that (barely) survives from the garbage of the first – where most of the humanity remains. In Red Wings also presents racism. The elite is white, blond and blue-eyed. Those who stayed in the garbage city are black.

Although I liked the opening, there was an uneasy rush that extended to the end of the story. As an example, the character Heidi switches from a spoiled girl to heroine like with only a snap of fingers. It didn’t convince me. It is a short story with space limitations but such a radical change in personality is not credible – there must be a reason and unfortunately there was none.

There is a positive note for Nuno’s writing (lots of potencial) but his art of creating and giving life to characters is not (yet) up to the challenge  -I’m quite sure that practice can improve it.

Dispensáveis (Expendables) by Ana C. Nunes

Image by Pixabay

There is a fable that depicts the tradition of a village of taking the elders and the disabled up to the mountains and to leave them there. The story narrates the day a son does this to his father, as tradition dictates. When they arrive the top of the mountain, the son gives his father food and a blanket. The father then tells him to cut the blanket in two. As the son asks him why, the father simply responds “for you, when it’s your turn”. Hearing these words, the son takes the father back home declaring that the tradition ends there. I believe it was this story (at least part of it) that inspired Ana C. Nunes to write this tale.

In Expendables we are confronted with a Portugal in a not too far future (the protagonist was born in 1979), where those who cannot work, be they young or old, rich or poor, are left in a remote place to die. This tradition was born due to an economic crisis, first at an European level, followed by a world wide crisis. Portugal was led to an extreme right-wing dictatorship. This background is exposed in the opening monologue.

The whole story is told in the first person, giving it a personal tone and view. The monologue is interesting, almost a chat with the reader, but there was a little voice in my brain that kept saying: there must be a way of showing instead of the direct telling. Nevertheless, I liked the story.

Arrábida 8 by Pedro G. P. Martins

Arrábida – Photo from Wikipedia

The author, a biologist, chose Arrábida Natural Park as the setting for his story. A new unknown pest plagues the rice paddies of Sado Bay. It is up to Aldo 9 and Sofie 1 to find a way to stop it. This is no simple task and there will be many complications to face. Arrábida 8 is a tale that gave me great pleasure to read. For several reasons.

The world created has many interesting points, such as the names of the characters and what they mean, the environment in the place that was the city of Setúbal, or the credit system. These elements are well explored by the author, making the story more credible. The use of the rule “show, don’t tell” makes the story more fluid and works wonders, keeping the reader interested. In this anthology we already had a tale (Patriarch by Ricardo Dias) reminiscent of the classic 1984. In Arrábida 8 there is another classic homage, but this time to Brave New World (with references like the pills soma).

Somos Felizes (We are Happy) by Sara Farinha

Image by Pixabay

We are Happy by Sara Farinha closes this anthology. This is a particularly scary tale because the reality depicted seems to be just around the corner. In the world portrayed one cannot be unhappy. And there are consequences to those who do not obey! In this world we find Bruno, a man devastated by his best friend’s death that disobeys the law by attending the funeral. Unable to mourn oppenly, he his caught in a spiral of depression.

The surrounding messages like “We are happy” or “We are obliged to be happy” makes it even more difficult, not to say impossible. At this point, caught between a depression and the visits of a relational therapist, Bruno meets someone like him. I confess I thought that this relationship would bring salvation… but instead…!

I loved reading We are Happy for several reasons. First of all the subject. Nowadays we already are almost obliged to be happy. Constantly bombarded with ads of happy lives and plagued by a sense of guilt when we go through a rough moment. And that is the reason why, at the beginning, that I stated that this tale is scary. Furthermore, I appreciated the way the author was able to manipulate my emotions, making this tale a good choice for closing the anthology.

This is one of the first books published by Editorial Divergência. The first with the theme of Dystopia. In a country where not many will publish portuguese authors, particularly if they are writing speculative fiction, Editorial Divergência would turn to be recognized as one of the few that does so, with increasing quality. I hope they will continue the excellent work they have done so far.

By Marco Lopes

Holds no academic title whatsoever. Obviously loves to read Science Fiction, Fantasy, lots of comics and books of Science to understand what surrounds him. Occasionally writes in is blog, O Senhor Luvas (Mr Gloves). Watches way too much tv shows. As part of is family heritage black humor runs deep in him so expect him to laugh out loud at things that would make other people cry or be shocked. His superpower is the ability to fall asleep while doing an MRI

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