Review: Alexander Weinstein's collection CHILDREN OF THE NEW WORLD
January 1, 2017
Alexander Weinstein's Children of the New World is a fantastic collection of stories imaging—with the exception of the last story (and more on that later)—a world of marked advancements in technology.
It would be too easy to compare the collection to Black Mirror, the anthology TV show imaging a similar dark future of technology and social media, and while there are clear parallels between Weinstein's collection and the show, Weinstein's humor and not-so-total pessimism differentiates itself from—and ultimately surpasses—Black Mirror as a work of art. There are those pieces that imagine the negative consequences of social media and the integration of technology into our lives and bodies, but Weinstein's strongest pieces are those that examine the connection that is possible through technology.
The first story, "Saying Goodbye to Yang," tells the story of a family saying goodbye to a beloved android. The grief they feel is real; the android was promised as a brother for an adopted daughter and he indeed became part of the family until it became too expensive to repair him when he broke down. The premise of the title story, like many of the stories in the collection, is a virtual world that becomes preferable to the real world, and a married couple is forced to reboot, and thus erase, their virtual lives—including their virtual children. They grieve with others who lost virtual loved ones in a a very real support group.
Most stories in the collection are noteworthy: "Rocket Night," for the most laugh-aloud first line in a story written recently; "Openness," for exploring emotional intimacy so astutely, even without the technological aspect; and "The Pyramid and the Ass," for combining spiritualism and technology. Weinstein's gift as a short story writer lies in his ability to create fully realized worlds and characters, so much so that when each story ends, it seems too soon. Not because the story isn't done—in fact, the endings are swift yet complete—but because the world you've been thrust into is novelistic in nature. Weinstein manages this in short stories with well-placed details and trust placed in the reader to soldier on without the full backstory of the world in which they find themselves.
The last story of the collection, "Ice Age," stands out in the collection as it takes place in a future version of the world, but not one marked by technological change. Instead, humanity has been thrust backwards into living in igloos and hunting moose for food. In a collection of futuristic-in-the-technological-sense stories, the ending of "Ice Age," pessimistic in and of itself, creates a larger message about the inevitability of our march towards self-destruction.