Review Blog

May 07 2012

10 Futures by Michael Pryor

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Woolshed Press, 2012. ISBN 9781742753768.
This remarkable collection of 10 short stories imagines the future in each of the next ten decades. The central protagonists in each story, teenage friends Tara and Sam, grapple with a wide variety of scenarios. In most of the stories one or other of them is faced with a moral dilemma or agonizing choice. In 2020, a plague has destroyed most of civilization and finds the two deliberating on whether to let possibly infected friends into their rural fortress. In 2030 when a Total Financial Collapse leaves a small primitive agricultural community struggling to survive, Tara lies to rid the group of a 'free-loader' but then discovers her action has horrific, unexpected consequences.
Other scenarios include machines to test genetic compatibility in 2040, severe rationing in the face of an alien invasion and rampant over-population in 2060, and a religious dictatorship in 2070; here, Sam has to choose between his boss and Tara. In 2080 Seniors, dubbed Silvers, have the numbers and the power and don't hesitate to use it corruptly. A 'human' AI machine features in 2100, and in 2120 a hospital sells clones and bodies in a 'spare parts' surgery racket.
Clearly these are all grim and confronting situations, written to provoke thought and discussion, rather than create optimism about our future. The 10 stories are not in chronological order which would indicate they are to be dipped into rather than read cumulatively. Well written, they draw on the themes of Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm as well as themes of personal responsibility, state power and control, corruption, loyalty and betrayal, human compatibility, and the price of freedom and survival. Unforgettable, they would be a valuable addition for any Senior English or Ethics classroom discussion.
Kevyna Gardner

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