Juarez Square and Other Stories
Science Fiction has always been a masterful tool for change and social commentary. By exploring the furthest reaches of possibility, science fiction allows us to forever reimagine the many roles humanity plays, whether in interacting with alien civilizations, the environment, technology, or each other.
And that social consciousness is at the heart of every story featured in D.L. Young’s Juarez Square and Other Stories, a collection that grounds classic sci-f tropes, like robotics and alternate political histories, with genuine human experiences and dilemmas. Whether it’s a drug lord’s influence over young people in his neighborhood or an estranged marriage, a family striving for a better life or a virtual slave challenging the rule of law that defines his life, these are human stories, through and through.
The early stories in the collection are set in the same sci-fi universe, one where Texas has seceded from the United States and robotic technology is both affordable and commonplace, and they walk a fine line between morality plays and Twilight Zone-style vignettes, complete with twist endings that do more than just surprise us. No small feat when we’re still learning about the rules of this setting and the author has so much expository background to cover.
By the time the reader reaches the story “Ximena,” you’re now expecting a twist ending, which makes the wonderful slice-of-life nature of the story resonate more. From this point on, it’s not exactly clear if these stories are all taking place in the same universe as the earlier Juarez Square stories, but that doesn’t matter. Each story has its own flavor and message, like little sci-fi-tinged parables.
It would be easy for Young’s stories to swing too far toward one extreme or the other — either coming off as preachy or seemingly exploiting sci-fi trappings to push some sort of agenda. His introduction suffers a bit from the former, quite honestly.
But, more importantly, the stories never read that way. Setting and message get equal time and share equal responsibility, so organically incorporating the science fiction aspects and the human aspects that each are integral to a given story’s success. Juarez Square and Other Stories is science fiction done right, style and substance in balance.
And nowhere in the book is that more prominent than in the story “The Jacob Seeds.” Young immediately drops the reader into a strange man-made island locale, set in a world where starvation runs rampant and our protagonist — a scientist who is neither mad NOR a dick, a true rarity even in sci-fi — has been working to develop a hardy protein-rich plant that can keep his fellow citizens healthy. Sadly, his work has put him on the radar of two ambitious politicians, each hoping to use him for their own gain.
It’s a fully-realized conundrum that makes the most of both its unfamiliar sci-fi setting and its all-too-familiar selfish political chicanery. And as our heroic scientist wrestles with an impossible choice, we not only put ourselves in his shoes, but imagine all the ways our world could’ve become his world. It’s emotionally engaging and thought-provoking all at once. Killer stuff.
|Page Count||150 pages|
|Publisher||Concordia Professional Services, LLC|
|Bookshop.org||Buy this Book|
|Category||Science Fiction & Fantasy|