I was graciously provided with a copy of this book through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Children of the New World is a collection of thirteen stories exploring themes of technology and sexuality in the near future. While the initial premise for most of the stories are original, such as a robotic babysitting big brother in “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” and computer programmers who design memories people can consume in “The Cartographers,” many of the stories fell flat for me.
Don’t get me wrong, they are well written, but not executed to their potential. One glaringly obvious flaw is that there is no perspective from a woman’s point of view. Each story is told from a man’s perspective and they often objectify the women they are sleeping with. In a collection about the ways technology is affecting human interaction and sexuality, it seems irresponsible to include so little diversity. How did women react to the increased prevalence of sexual liberation through avatars? How did they adjust to the changing world around them?
The objectification of women in these stories astounded me. In one of the stories, a man falls for a woman because she is using a pen in an age where it is strange to use a pen. Cue the “you’re not like other girls” speech. Turns out she was just a figment of his imagination. In any story where a woman is present, it often jumps from “I met this attractive person” to “now we are in a relationship” to “we broke up because of our flaws as human beings.” All I could see were the male narrator’s flaw because they were so fixated on the hole their companion was fulfilling in their life or how they resented their companion for not seeing the world in the say way that they did.
Also, for a book about technology and sexuality, this was so heteronormative. There was no LGTBTQIA+ representation. Almost every man was a part of or yearning for a nuclear family. I just did not care. I stuck around because the writing was good and because I naively thought there might be a gem among all these polished stones. Sadly, each story was dependent on its premise, not its characters, and that does not equal strong storytelling.
Overall, I think this collection could have been so much better than it turned out. I feel bad for saying that because the author obviously spent a lot of time writing these stories and they held so much promise. It just wasn’t for me.
If you are looking for a stronger collection of technological speculative fiction stories check out Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang.