As an avid reader of climate fiction (cli-fi), I was very much looking forward to the release of Loosed Upon the World: The Saga Anthology of Climate Fiction. I’m pleased to report that this anthology definitely met and exceeded my expectations.
This volume brings together an impressive collection of authors with a wide range of writing styles and a variety of takes on the broadly-defined theme. As with almost any anthology, there are hits and misses. There were a few stories I’d read before, one of which is honestly not among my favorites and wasn’t what I have in mind when I think of climate fiction. However, even the “misses” were still decent works of fiction that only suffered in comparison to the groundbreaking work in the rest of the anthology.
I was glad to see contributions by Margaret Atwood, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Paolo Bacigalupi. These three big names were already familiar to me and are essential reading for the emerging cli-fi genre. Robinson’s piece was an excerpt from his Science in the Capital Trilogy. I had read the trilogy already, so this chapter was nothing new to me. But I was glad to see it here because it will point more people in the direction of this important and underappreciated series. I was also glad to see new (or at least new to me) works by Atwood and Bacigalupi, both of whom have crafted (and continue to craft!) excellent stories that include prominent climate change components.
My favorite part of this anthology was the wide variety of writing styles and content choices. If I had to pick one story that stood out, though, I’d go with “The Precedent” by Sean McMullen. This story’s premise is so dark and apocalyptic that it could have gone horribly wrong in the hands of a lesser author. However, for me, the vivid descriptions and rich characterization give this story a very real feel in spite of the incredibly stark plot and setting. This story speaks powerfully to the horrors of the climate crisis, challenge us to reflect on those horrors and our involvement in them without shoving any particular solution down our throats.
I would recommend this book both to readers who are looking for good cli-fi and to readers who are looking for good fiction in general. From now on, this will be the anthology that I recommend to people who are looking for an introduction to climate fiction.