Radicalized is a short story collection from author Cory Doctrow. All four fall within the realm of sci-fi and carry the theme: “tales for our present moment”.
Unauthorized Bread – The first story in the collection follows a young woman, Salima, recently released from an immigration holding facility. She makes her way to Boston, eager to start her new life. Taking an apartment in a building that houses both wealthy and lower class citizens, her unit is partially subsidized by companies providing appliances that only work with authorized food/soap/etc. Once Salima learns to jailbreak her toaster so she can afford less costly bread, she sets off a chain of events that if not corrected, could threaten eviction for her fellow tenants.
Model Minority – A Superman-esque super hero, The American Eagle, takes up the cause of fighting for a black man on the receiving end of police brutality. His intentions are good, but his actions are not exactly welcomed by either side. Doctrow examines the toxic attitudes of division in today’s day and age with the right desperate to strip away The Eagle’s right to question the American justice system and the left questioning The Eagle’s sincerity having ignored this kind of injustice for so long.
Radicalized – After Joe’s wife becomes stricken with stage four breast cancer, the couple spirals into hopelessness when it’s revealed their health insurance company refuses to pay for an experimental treatment that could save her life. Joe looks to the darkest corners of the internet to find some solace through others who feel victimized by health insurance companies. It isn’t long before a movement begins among the members looking to strike back and exact revenge for the loss of their loved ones.
The Masque of the Red Death – The final story follows Martin, a self-obsessed wealthy doomsday planner who has built a haven in the wilderness to ride out the end of the world. Alongside a small group of others, he intends to emerge once the apocalypse passes. With a plan so in depth, what could possibly go wrong?
I very much enjoyed this. All four stories were similar yet just different enough to keep me engaged the entire time. I whipped through this one quite quickly, actually. I thought both Radicalized (although the ending is rather problematic) and Unauthorized Bread were the two standouts of the four, not taking anything away from the others, but those felt the most urgent and realistic for right now. I usually enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction but there were moments near the end of The Masque of the Red Death that completely turned my stomach. That’s on me though – I don’t tend to do well with graphic descriptions of plague-based armageddon.
I picked this one up as it was shortlisted for Canada Reads and although it was immensely readable, I can’t see this one going too far in the competition. I would be surprised if it isn’t the first or second book eliminated as it faces some very tough competition.