Book Review: Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction
Everything Change is an innovative and compelling climate fiction anthology. There are several gems in here that will capture the imagination of anyone who loves good fiction, regardless of past familiarity with the genre. If you’re already an avid climate fiction reader, though, you’re in for a real treat!
One of the great strengths of this anthology is its diversity of style and content. A good anthology must strike a balance between choosing stories that embody the anthology’s theme and stories that demonstrate the wide range of possibilities available within that theme. This anthology is an excellent example of that delicate balance.
Climate fiction is generally dystopian in nature due to the current catastrophic trajectory of the climate crisis in real life. Any well-crafted narrative that speaks to the ominous realities of the crisis we all face must almost necessarily contain at least some hints of dystopian elements — cities flooding, wildfires burning, families torn asunder by forces beyond their control. The stories contained within this anthology are no exception. However, what does vary considerably from story to story is the tone with which these realities are addressed. Some adopt the grim and gritty realism that one would expect. Others, however, are at times quite explicit in their emphasis on enduring hope, innovation, resilience, and even good cheer in the face of otherwise dire circumstances. Most are somewhere in between — an exploration of deeply human struggles at the all-too-real intersection between hope and despair.
The title of this anthology, Everything Change, is derived from a quote by Margaret Atwood:
“I think calling it climate change is rather limiting. I would rather call it the Everything Change.”
One of the other great strengths of this anthology is that it captures the spirit of this quote and this vital perspective on the nature of climate change. Many people — even people who are quite concerned and informed about the issue — unintentionally adopt a narrow understanding of what climate change is and what the climate crisis means for the present and future of human and non-human life on Earth. This anthology does an excellent job of breaking out of that box by showing a variety of different people, in a variety of different situations, dealing with the challenges they face in a variety of different ways. Taken individually, each story is “just” the story of one or several characters dealing with their particular set of circumstances and struggles. When taken collectively, however, they paint an elaborate picture of “everything change” that is more complex and comprehensive than any one short story can paint. This picture is both an exceptional artistic achievement and an excellent fulfillment of the vital role that fiction plays in helping us to understand the major questions and concerns of life and the world we live in, including but not limited to the climate crisis.
I recommend this anthology to anyone and everyone who enjoys good fiction. As with almost any anthology, some pieces are stronger overall than others, and some readers with a narrow preference in tone or style will prefer some stories over others for those reasons. However, there’s something in this book for just about everyone.
I especially recommend this to everyone with any interest in the emerging genre of climate fiction. There’s a growing body of literature out there that could be classified as climate fiction, either because the author or publisher classifies it as such or because climate disruptions and the climate crisis are prominent themes. This anthology will fit nicely with the rest of these offerings and will surely serve as a fine introduction to the genre for many new readers. I hope that it will reach a broad audience and thus broaden awareness of — and appreciation for — climate fiction.