Fernando Diaz of OR Books sent me a free copy of Welcome to the Greenhouse edited by Gordon van Gedler to read and review a little over a month ago. I need to apologize for it taking me a MONTH to read this collection of short stories on climate change, but it is neither “light” reading nor has my life been without change, so it’s taken a while to work through it.
Welcome to the Greenhouse contains 16 short stories by legends and newer writers all revolving around climate change and the effects it could have on the planet. Edited and introduced by Gordon van Gelder with an introduction by Elizabeth Kolbert, it does give the reader a lot to think about.
My favorite story of the collection was “Come Again Some Other Day” by Michael Alexander. I’ve not read Michael Alexander before, but his story was the “comic relief” near the middle of the collection. His “solution” to climate change involved telekinesis and time travel – dumping unwanted weather in other times and locations. There were still consequences to the actions, but it was a much needed breath of lighter heartedness in an otherwise dark collection.
Alan Dean Foster’s “That Creeping Sensation” was between the lighter Alexander piece and the rest of the book – he took a more Monster Movie tone – where the atmosphere recharged to higher oxygen contents and grew monster-sized bugs, creating a new branch of the military — literally, exterminators. Matt Hughes’ “Not a Problem” dealt with billionaires throwing money at climate change, with an unexpected outcome – aliens.
Pat McEwan’s “The California Queen Comes A-Calling” focused on a return to more frontier-style justice where lawyers are trained combat veterans and punishment is swift and sure. Climate change has isolated and dehumanized much of civilization, and this is McEwan’s take on how law and order returns to humanity – both on an individual and a broader scale. It has a feel of old Westerns, fast-paced and full of action.
Gregory Benford’s “Eagle” took a look at activism in a nearer future setting. How far will some people go to protect their homes and planets – on both sides of the issue? He looks at how one group’s actions, down with all the best intentions – and the consequences all around. Bruce Sterling’s “Master of the Aviary” was more a cautionary tale of how the more things change, the more they stay the same.
There were more human tales as well, Judith Moffett’s “The Middle of Somewhere” teaches a young girl old skills to help deal with ever changing climates. “Turtle Love” by Joseph Green shows how people can adapt even when all seems lost. “The Bridge” by George Guthridge shows a darker side of humanity in the wilds of Alaska – this story is haunting and disturbing but well done. “FarmEarth” by Paul Di Filippo showed how some interactive video games could morph into ways to save – or destroy – the Earth, even by the hands of children. Where “True North” by M.J. Locke showed to what lengths some will go to save future generations. “Benkolen” by Brian Aldiss, David Prill’s “Men of Summer”, and “Sundown” by Chris Lawson were all expertly rendered stories that I enjoyed but didn’t hit as hard to me as some.
I admit this collection wrung me out. It’s an important topic, but very dystopian and dark – which is congruous with the topic. It did make me want to turn off some lights and recycle more. We do all need to be better stewards of our planet. The message of the collection is clear, but I would expect nothing less from Gordon van Gelder. It’s definitely worth checking out — especially if you like dark and dystopian. As for me, I’m looking forward to some lighter reading in my next book.