Book Review: Sunvault – Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation

Speculative fiction, SFF, in particular is increasingly becoming concerned with issues like climate change and sustainability. Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation is a brand new anthology by Upper Rubber Boot, which consists of short fiction, poetry and artwork centered around these themes.

As Andrew Dincher says in his Foreword to the book, “solarpunk, a new movement in SF that examines the possibility of a future in which currently emerging movements in society and culture such as the green movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, and certain aspects of Occupy Wall Street coalesce to create a more optimistic future in a more just world.” He adds also, “These authors also tend to deal with social issues involving the environment.” Solarpunk thus prioritizes the will to thrive,  to find a balance netween the self, the community and the enviroment. It is hopeful, and positive.

The content in this anthology, contributed by an excitingly diverse group of writers, poets and artists are shining examples of solarpunk.

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This anthology consists of 19 short stories, 10 poems and 7 pieces of artwork.

All of the artwork has a sense of the familiar which is enhanced by the unfamiliar aspects. It feels a bit like seeing someone we know in an entirely new landscape. There is an element of nostalgia with a dash of novelty. My favourite piece of artwork, by Sireesha Reddy, is titled Pan, Legs Resting.

It was the poetry that most astonished me, and it is something that I am still trying to process. I haven’t read much speculative poetry and thus it was a truly novel experience for me. Some of the poetry has words which are very technical and scientific–which seem out of place in free verse. It gives the poem an edge, a note of harshness that is jarring, but not so much as to want to give up reading. In fact, it piqued my curiosity. Other poems are lyrical and full of little emotional flourishes that tell a complete story. My favourite poems in this anthology are The Sailor Boys, by Brandon O’Brien; Solar Powered Giraffes by Jack Pevyhouse; and Fairytales and Other Species of Life by Chloe N Clark.

The anthology has a brilliant selection of short stories. The Boston Hearth Project by T X Watson, with its Occupy Wall Street meets heist movie vibe is extremely entertaining. Another favourite is Speechless Love by Yilun Fan, which is a truly sapiosexual romance. Eight Cities by Iona Sharma, peppered with Hindi words and set in a drowned Delhi, was a surreal piece. Last Chance by Tyler Young is a beautiful story about choices. The Trees Between by Karyn L Stecyk is another favourite story. It is filled with a hope that made me smile.

Boltzmann Brain by Kristine Ong Muslim is another brilliant and chilling piece. The Road to the Sea by Lavie Tidhar, reflects on how human greed pushed things over the edge. The Reset by Jaymee Goh asks us what would happen if there were a reset button that we could push. Solar Child by Camille Meyers takes an intriguing look at how humans may try to push forward their own evolution, and wonders if it will be enough.  A Catalogue of Sunlight at the End of The World,by A.C. Wise is a touching story about goodbyes and new beginnings. These are just a handful of my favourites out of the many more excellent short stories in this anthology.

Common themes that run through all the pieces in this anthology, are those of regret and loss, a will to thrive, a search for forgiveness, and an impulse to rebuild. They depict a humanity that has learnt from its mistakes and is willing to build a better society, with respect for the environment. I thought there there is an awe of nature in these pieces, a pantheistic attitude vaguely resembling that of the Romantics.

I enjoyed this anthology very much. The diversity of narratives, the note of hope and the eternal search to answer the questions most relevant to our times are what make this anthology a great read.

FTC disclaimer: I received a e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this honest review.

About the editors and contributors: http://www.upperrubberboot.com/sunvault/

About the Publisher: http://www.upperrubberboot.com/about/

Other Reads:

Drowned Worlds is an anthology of science fiction narratives centered around the theme of climate change. Click here to read my review of the book.

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