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The Windup Universe #0.5, 0.6

Pump Six and Other Stories

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Paolo Bacigalupi's debut collection demonstrates the power and reach of the science fiction short story. Social criticism, political parable, and environmental advocacy lie at the center of Paolo's work. Each of the stories herein is at once a warning, and a celebration of the tragic comedy of the human experience.

The eleven stories in Pump Six represent the best Paolo's work, including the Hugo nominee "Yellow Card Man," the nebula and Hugo nominated story "The People of Sand and Slag," and the Sturgeon Award-winning story "The Calorie Man."

239 pages, Hardcover

First published February 1, 2008

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About the author

Paolo Bacigalupi

127 books4,521 followers
Paolo Bacigalupi is an award-winning author of novels for adults and young people.

His debut novel THE WINDUP GIRL was named by TIME Magazine as one of the ten best novels of 2009, and also won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Compton Crook, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards. Internationally, it has won the Seiun Award (Japan), The Ignotus Award (Spain), The Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis (Germany), and the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire (France).

His debut young adult novel, SHIP BREAKER, was a Micheal L. Printz Award Winner, and a National Book Award Finalist, and its sequel, THE DROWNED CITIES, was a 2012 Kirkus Reviews Best of YA Book, A 2012 VOYA Perfect Ten Book, and 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist. The final book in the series, TOOL OF WAR, will release in October of 2017.

His latest novel for adults is The New York Times Bestseller THE WATER KNIFE, a near-future thriller about climate change and drought in the southwestern United States.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 902 reviews
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
April 19, 2012
Besides brilliant, inventive and superb, the best way to describe Paolo Bacigulupi’s collection of short fiction is: G…R…I…M! Do not go into PB’s work looking for gumdrops and teddy bears, because his stories will bludgeon your mood until your happy is a bruised, battered mess. Still, this is one emotional spanking you will love, because Bacigalupi's prose contains some of the most colorful, intensely unique imagery being produced in SF.

The stories in Pump Six, almost without exception, concern environmental dystopias that are so dark that they camp on the border of horror. Like John Brunner's masterful novels, Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up, the tone of Bacigalupi’s tales is stiflingly bleak, and there’s an ever-present, accusatory finger wagging at a humanity that has FUBARed up the Earth and left any possibility of a happy ending well out of reach. To these ecological nightmares, Paolo brings a fluid, organic, eminently readable style that reminds me of a blend between Charles Stross and Ted Chiang.

As a whole, this is an incredibly strong collection, without a blister rust-covered lemon in the bunch. In fact, even the pieces that don't rise to the lofted level of expectation left in the wake of the singularly sublime The Windup Girl, there were still breath-stealing moments of awed appreciation for this burgeoning SF master.

Okay, now for the stories...


Pocketful of Dharma: (Nominee: Locus Award)

PB's first published story is a perfect example of what I was referring to above as "moments of awe" that occur even when the story itself doesn't completely come together. Compared to the other stories in this collection, I thought this was the second weakest, and yet the opening of the story, wherein is described a biological skyscraper, was memorable:
Wang Jun stood on the rain-slicked streets of old Chengdu and stared up into the drizzle at Huojianzhu. It rose into the evening darkness, a massive city core, dwarfing even Chengdu's skyscrapers. Construction workers dangled from its rising skeleton, swinging from one section of growth to the next on long rappelling belts. Others clambered unsecured, digging their fingers into the honeycomb structure, climbing the struts with careless dangerous ease. Soon the growing core would overwhelm the wet-tiled roofs of the old city. Then Huojianzhu, the Living Architecture, would become Chengdu entirely.
It grew on lattices of minerals, laying its own skeleton and following with cellulose skin. Infrastructure strong and broad, growing and branching, it settled roots deep into the green fertile soil of the Sichuan basin. It drew nutrients and minerals from the soil and sun, and the water of the rancid Bing Jiang; sucking at pollutants as willingly as it ate the sunlight which filtered through twining sooty mist.
Within, its veins and arteries grew pipelines to service the waste and food and data needs of its coming occupants. It was an animal vertical city built first in the fertile minds of the Biotects and now growing into reality. Energy pulsed from the growing creature. It would stand a kilometer high and five wide when fully mature. A vast biologic city, which other than its life support would then lie dormant as humanity walked its hollowed arteries, clambered through its veins and nailed memories to its skin in the rituals of habitation.
The mind view conjured by Bacigalupi is amazing. And while the rest of the story, which concerns a beggar boy who comes into possession of a unique and valuable artifact of religious significance felt a bit rough, it was still miles ahead of what I would nave expected from a first work. 3.0 stars.

The Fluted Girl: (Nominee: Sturgeon & Locus Award)

This story, along with "Pop Squad" below, were the two stories that affected me the most in the collection. Set in a world in which government has devolved into feudal fiefdoms ruled by a culture of entertainment, and biological modifications and extreme surgeries are employed to develop "celebrities" to enhance the reputation of their lords, this story involves one of the most original, and terrifying SF concepts I've encountered (the title is a big hint). While I didn’t enjoy this as much as some of the later pieces, the imagery evoked during the story’s pivotal sequence is nothing short of mind-bursting in its melding of emotion and horrific eroticism.
They stood revealed, pale elfin creatures of music. The guests around them gasped as the notes poured out brighter now, unmuffled by clinging clothes. The girls' musical graftings shone: cobalt boreholes in their spines, glinting stops and keys made of brass and ivory that ran along their fluted frames and contained a hundred possible instruments within the structure of their bodies.
It was a dance of seduction and acquiescence. They had other dances, solos and duets, some chaste, others obscene, but for their debut, Belari had chosen this one. The energy of their music increased, violent, climactic, until at last she and Nia lay upon the floor, expended, sheathed in sweat, bare twins tangled in musical lasciviousness. Their body music fell silent.
I don't imagine this story will leave me anytime soon. 3.5 to 4.0 stars.

The People of Sand and Slag: (Nominee: Hugo, Nebula and Locus Award)

One of my favorite stories, this piece was my first inkling that PB was going to enlarge and redefine my conception of SF story-telling. Set in an environmentally destroyed future, in which rather than change the ecosystem, humans have modified themselves to survive on a polluted planet (e.g., they subsist on sand, can regrow limbs, breathe toxic fumes, etc…). A group of miners discover a dog, one of the last biologics left on the planet. What ensues is less about the plot and more about the conversation about what it means to be human, and whether these altered humans, who seem perfectly content with their lives, have lost something precious. One of the things I really admired about this piece is the way PB doesn’t draw attention to the world-building, but puts it out there for us to find.
We flew to Hawaii for a swimming vacation and we brought the dog with us…Lisa was a good swimmer. She flashed through the ocean’s metallic sheen like an eel out of history and when she surfaced, her naked body glistened with hundreds of iridescent petroleum jewels...When the Sun started to set, Jaak lit the ocean on fire with his 101. We all sat and watched as the Sun’s great red ball sank through veils of smoke, its light shading deeper crimson with every minute. Waves rushed flaming onto the beach. Jaak got out his harmonica and played while Lisa and I made love on the sand.
The end of the story is both predictable and tragic, but what I was left with was a feeling of unease that went far deeper than the fate of dog. 5.0 stars

The Pasho:

“Knowledge is simply a terrible ocean we must cross, and hope that wisdom lies on the other side.”

A bit of a departure from the rest of the stories, this story addresses issues of heritage, tradition and progress. A young man born to a culture of harshness and strict traditions, returns home after being educated in a progressive, scholarly society and confronts his grandfather. I think I may enjoy this more upon a subsequent reading, but I felt my attention wandering a bit in the middle. 3.0 stars.

The Calorie Man: (Winner: Sturgeon Award, Nominee: Hugo and Locus Award)

This story introduces the world of The Windup Girl, and is one of my favorites. Following the collapse of the petroleum-based civilization, and the ravaging of crops by hyper-aggressive genetically-engineered plagues, a resource-strapped bioeconomy has arisen in which the most valuable commodity is joules derived from the burning of calories, and then stored as kinetic energy. Mega whoreporations control the patents on plague-resistant strains of foodstuffs that they ruthlessly protect. The world-building and the writing in this one shows a new level of growth in PB’s work and I loved it. 5.0 stars.

The Tamarisk Hunter:

Not one of my favorites, but still a decent story. This time, Bacigalupi takes on drought as water wars between California and the Western States have devolved into bloody, armed-conflicts complete with draconian conservation laws.
At first, when California started winning its water lawsuits and shutting off cities, the displaced people just followed the water—right to California. It took a little while before the bureaucrats realized what was going on, but finally someone with a sharp pencil did the math and realized that taking in people along with their water didn’t solve a water shortage.
Well-written and very prescient, but not one that moved me as much as some of the others. 2.5 stars.

Pop Squad:

In a collection full of dark stories, this one still manages to raise its head and shoulders above the rest. The beginning of this story is a serious gut shot. In an not so utopian future, immortality has become a fact and natural death virtually eliminated. The tradeoff is that population control is strictly and violently enforced. If no one is dying, no one can be born. Our main character is a member of the “Pop Squad” that hunts down and “deals with” renegade women who illegally procreate.
The familiar stench of unwashed bodies, cooked food, and shit washes over me as I come through the door. Cruiserlights flicker through the blinds, sparkling in rain and illuminating the crime scene with strobes of red and blue fire. A kitchen. A humid mess. A chunky woman huddles in the corner, clutching closed her nightgown. Fat thighs and swaying breasts under stained silk. Squad goons crowding her, pushing her around, making her sit, making her cower. Another woman, young-looking and pretty, pregnant and black-haired, is slumped against the opposite wall, her blouse spackled with spaghetti remains. Screams from the next room: kids.
PB drops us right in the middle of the story with no set up, and when the scene reaches its climax, it is a complete jaw-dropper. I can’t tell you how much reading that passage affected me. It will linger in my psyche.

From this nightmare beginning, the story becomes another tale of a revived conscience competing against the new status quo. I was actually a little disappointed that PB didn’t continue to push the envelope in this piece as the ending was a bit of a letdown. It’s like Paolo was saying, ‘I just can’t take you there.’ I guess I’m okay with that as my nightmares have enough material for the moment. 4.5 stars.

Yellow Card Man: (Nominee: Hugo, Sturgeon, and Locus Award)

This is a direct prequel to The Windup Girl and the feel of the story will seem very familiar to those who have read that novel. This is PB’s most accomplished story to date and you can see the swift sloping curve of his skills as a writer. Atmosphere, world-building, nuanced characters and an emotional underpinning that really dazzles. Outstanding. 5.0 stars.


My least favorite story in the collection and one that feels completely out of place with its fellow tales. A psychological horror piece about a man who randomly kills his wife one morning. Either I missed something of PB did, because this did nothing for me. 2.0 stars.

Pump Six (Winner: Locus Award)

A superb way to end this collection. This reminded me of C.M. Kornbluth’s classic novella, The Marching Morons, except with PB’s environmentally-themed stamp on it. In a collapsing society where intelligence has dropped markedly, all of the machinery from 100 years ago is beginning to breakdown…and no one knows how to fix it. 4.5 stars.

Overall, this is a very worth-while collection of one of the brightest stars in the SF universe.

Profile Image for Nataliya.
782 reviews12.4k followers
April 27, 2023
Bleak. Overwhelmingly bleak. To the point where it sucks out all the happiness out of you, leaving you hollow and unsettled.

Memorable. To the point where it feels as if it's crawling under your skin to stay with you for a very long time.

If you have read The Windup Girl, the worlds that Bacigalupi creates in this collection of short stories - the themes, the mood, the settings - will be quite familiar to you. Two of the stories here, actually, are set in the same world as that novel, and one of them is a direct prequel to it.

Almost all the stories in this collection are set in the future dystopian world which appears to be an incredibly bleak and grim place to experience. And they all appear connected by one common thread - the theme of DEFICIT, be that of food/calories, or water, or power, or children, or knowledge, or compassion and understanding. Ecological destruction and devastation - the direct result of the treatment of nature by our species that is supposedly at the top of evolutionary chain - in another motif running through most of the stories.
"Lisa was a good swimmer. She flashed through the ocean’s metallic sheen like an eel out of history and when she surfaced, her naked body glistened with hundreds of iridescent petroleum jewels.

When the Sun started to set, Jaak lit the ocean on fire with his 101. We all sat and watched as the Sun’s great red ball sank through veils of smoke, its light shading deeper crimson with every minute. Waves rushed flaming onto the beach.
I would hate to ever be trapped in the world of Paolo Bacigalupi's imagination. It is intense and grim and bleak and full of "you did not just go there!" moments. He does not hesitate to immerse the reader into the aspects of life that are dark and dirty and filthy and repulsive and disgusting and repelling and disturbing. Even seemingly hopeful endings on a closer inspection turn out to be just distractions, and actually the hopelessness remains there and is in no danger of going anywhere.

Hopelessness and bleakness are why I was glad that the short stories format provided natural breaks - because this book was not the one to be consumed in one reading binge. No, I needed some time in between each story to recover a bit, to enjoy our world that appears exhilaratingly beautiful next to the worlds that Bacigalupi's merciless imagination creates.

All of these stories serve as a warning - about what can happen if humanity continues on its present course of disregard for nature in the chase for profits, the worship of power, the attitude of survival of the fittest, the belief that everything exists to serve our whims. Unlike so many other dystopian worlds, this one feels intimately rooted in our present, seems like quite a probable future to our present, and that is what makes it so bleakly grim and depressingly sad.

What I love about Bacigalupi's storytelling is his ability to easily integrate the elements of his dystopian world into the story without resorting to the sections of info-dumping. And another great thing is that he does not talk down to his readers, that he trusts their ability to understand the story without excessive hand-holding. And I love that.
The stories in this collection that resonated the most with me were Pump Six - , The Pasho - , and Pop Squad - .

The one story that I loathed, the one that seemed absolutely pointless and unnecessary and clashed with the overall tone of the book was Softer - I did not see the point of this story at all.
It's hard to rate a collection of short stories that has the easy 5-star pieces, and a 1-star story, and a couple of mediocre ones. But in the end I settled on a solid 4-star rating and high recommendation.

Now I'm just curious to see how Bacigalupi would fare if he tried writing outside of the dystopian universe that he appears to be so comfortable with. I have a feeling that he'd still do great.
And special thanks go to Catie who sent me this book (and her review of it is here).
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,404 reviews11.7k followers
January 29, 2011
It took me a loooong time to get through this book, and not because it wasn't good, but because I was bloody scared of it. I would finish one story looking like this @.@ and then put the book aside for a while to get some courage to read another one.

Bacigalupi is the author who doesn't do safe and comforting. His visions of our future are brutal, unforgiving and totally too believable.

Let's take The Fluited Girl - for me the scariest story in this anthology. The idea Bacigalupi extrapolates here is what will happen if humanity continues indulging in surgical modification of their bodies. I'll let you find out for yourself what "fluited girl" means. Hope you have strong stomachs.

Then there are stories that speculate about what people will become if they achieve immortality. Characters in The People of Sand and Slag are adapted to pollution to such a degree that they are able to survive eating just sand and waste. (They are also capable of regrowing their limbs BTW - and apparently this "feature" can be a part of sexual play, good grief, another shocker!) When these people come across an actual live dog, the disconnect between these humans and natural world comes to light in a rather horrifying way. The other story playing with the idea of immortality is The Pop Squad. Not to go into details, let me throw these questions out there - if everyone is immortal, would children be allowed to be born? what if there are some women who decide to break rules and have kids? what happens to these children? A hint: boom, boom! Not for the faint of heart.

Other stories explore the versions of future where: natural resources (water) belong to a private company (The Tamarisk Hunter), the exhaustion of fossil fuels leads to a world run by the corporations that own genetically modified crops that now fuel and feed humanity (The Calorie Man), intelligence is becoming obsolete and people revert to animal-like existence (Pump Six).

Like in all anthologies, not all stories Pump Six and Other Stories are equally good, the earlier ones are particularly transparent in their message. But they all are definitely equally thought-provoking. A great dystopian read for those not turned off by heavy subjects.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
March 2, 2019
Hey Paolo, lighten up man, it’s gonna be OK.

Somewhere southwest of cyberpunk, we’ll call it Biopunk, Bacigalupi’s 2006 collection of stories that are quintessentially Bacigalupian.

I’m pretty sure our Paolo has read some of the good doctor Thomas Robert Malthus’ work as there is an overwhelming theme of scarcity, loss and might have been. He shares with Phillip K. Dick an affinity for the near in the future downturn – no far future post-apocalyptic nightmare or dystopian bad day this, OH NO, Paolo sets his story on the slippery slope, just enough grade to let us see the high-water mark of where we were, but also the realization that we cannot get back home.

These gritty tales seem set in his Windup universe of calorie deficiency and Gibsonesque neo-techno assholery. Here is the plastic detritus of a back alley, there a starving but plucky soul with something to prove.

Well written but dark.

Profile Image for carol..
1,566 reviews8,217 followers
Shelved as 'don-t-count'
July 2, 2014
A complete slog. Why? Because Paolo writes about the inglorious in humanity with clear eyes and precise language. I'm reminded of a line: he'll show you your own heart in such a way that you would rip it out.

The Fluted Girls: disturbing view of a dystopia. disturbing view of sexuality.
The People of Sand and Slag: silicon-based people might have lost a little of humanity, but they feel it echo after they find a dog.
Profile Image for Penny.
172 reviews347 followers
February 12, 2014
This collection of short stories paints a very bleak picture of the future that I found quite disturbing. This is without doubt the darkest book I've ever read.

At first I was finding these stories so depressing and uncomfortable that I tried to take a break from them. I found that I couldn't. Perhaps they suit my current mood, but I felt that once I had a taste of this depth I couldn't stay away.

I didn't love every story in equal measure, but each one sent a shock up my spine and gave an insight into humanity I haven't been able to stop thinking about since I read them.

Many of the stories involve a future world in which some of the current issues around climate change have become reality. Drought, sea level rise, food shortages, crop failure, water restrictions, energy restrictions... And in each case the greed in our nature as we trample over one another to first survive and then turn that to profit. Always seeking to be the one left standing on top with so little regard for what we're standing on top of.

The discussion in our book club indicates that many people needed to take breaks between stories or warned friends or family not to read certain stories based on content. This is not an easy collection. It isn't a comfortable read. But then I don't think it should be.

More than worth it if you can face the darkness.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,099 followers
August 29, 2021
When I read Paolo Bacigalupi, I'm struck by the wonderfully precise language, evocative wording, and worldbuilding that is both profound and dead-center. As a craftsman, I find few faults. And when it comes to his science fiction, they're always filled with warnings, starvation, lack, deficit, and how it wrenches something inside of us all. It's completely immersive.

It also made me squirm in my seat.

Almost every story was a dystopia that didn't QUITE feel like a dystopia on the surface because almost everyone was working hard and trying to get on, but either the environment or the calorie crunch or the lost grip on what made humanity (or anything) real just had us breaking our fingernails as we slid into that deep well.

I've come to the conclusion that these are all horrors. Not SF, not dystopia, but outright horrors. They may revolve around ecology or biopunk subjects -- some of these stories are directly tied to his other novels -- and by all rights OUGHT to be called SF in the grandest sense, but their BLEAK outlooks are something else altogether.

I'm very impressed even as I'm deeply disturbed.

Well worth the read, however.
Profile Image for Olethros.
2,630 reviews433 followers
March 21, 2020
Varios futuros poco halagüeños.-

Género. Relatos.

Lo que nos cuenta. El libro La bomba número seis y otros relatos (publicación original: Pump Six and Other Stories, 2008) es una recopilación de once relatos escritos entre 1999 y 2008, con solo uno original y el resto publicado en distintas revistas o antologías con anterioridad, que nos permitirán conocer, entre otros temas, seres humanos diseñados para distintas funcionalidades, implicaciones biotecnológicas a varios niveles y consecuencias del daño al entorno, del descenso de la capacidad intelectual o de cambios sociales.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

Profile Image for Christy.
Author 5 books401 followers
October 24, 2008
Paolo Bacigalupi's collection of short stories deals primarily with environmental and bioethics issues: the politics of food (“The Calorie Man”); water management (“The Tamarisk Hunter”); waste management (“Pump Six”); de-evolution (also “Pump Six”); and the manipulation of bodies, whether for entertainment or for longevity (“The Fluted Girl,” “The Pop Squad,” and “The People of Sand and Slag”).

All but "Softer," a meditative story of a man who kills his wife and the way he deals with it, are near-future dystopias. Some are told from the perspective of the underclass and some from the perspective of the more privileged, but all explore a world in which humanity and the environment are fundamentally changed.

"The Fluted Girl," "The Pop Squad," and "The People of Sand and Slag" are all highlights for me, including not just fascinating science fictional ideas but beautiful writing and emotional weight. "The Fluted Girl" combines beauty, sensuality, and the horror of exploitation in a particularly effective performance scene; "The Pop Squad" explores ideas about the value of perpetual youth and of parenthood through scenes of violence and brutality; and "The People of Sand and Slag" pushes the reader to consider what really makes us human via a consideration of the value of animal companionship.

I hate to say too much about any of the stories because the experience of reading them is just as important as the ideas in them. So let me just say that Bacigalupi's stories are definitely worth reading.
Profile Image for Janelle.
1,214 reviews164 followers
August 7, 2022
An excellent collection of short stories set in a future earth ravaged by climate change, overpopulation, pollution, genetic engineering (of plants, animals and humans) and more. It’s bleak but so full of ideas it was easy to get drawn into the world of each story. My favourites were ‘Pocketful of Dharma’, ‘The Fluted Girl’, ‘The House of Sand and Slag’ and ‘Pop Squad’ (which was made into an excellent Love, Death and Robots episode).
Profile Image for Monica.
620 reviews631 followers
July 28, 2022
I finally got around to reading Paolo Bacigalupi's ghastly visions of the near future. Published almost 10 years ago, humans seem to be moving closer to these dark, dystopian prognostications. Bacigalupi traffics in the underbelly of humanity. He takes the darkest influences of human behavior and extrapolates to speculate what happens to society when these traits are allowed to flourish in the extreme. The revelations are horrifying!!

As with any story collection, some are better than others. But the concept on the whole was fascinating and the author had the skills to pull it off. Bacigalupi is a environmental activist. Most of the stories in this collection deal with a depressing near future state of affairs and how mankind will choose to deal with the fallout of global warming, pollution and their effects on food supply, poverty, freshwater shortage, fertility etc. Also, what sort of perversions are created with unlimited wealth or medicated to apathy? Does a wealth gap chasm foment depravity? Bacigalupi thinks so. All in all, I found the visions of the future both brilliant and grotesque. In the end I gave this collection a very high compliment; it was well worth my time. Trigger warnings

4.5ish Stars

Read on kindle
Profile Image for Kat  Hooper.
1,584 reviews403 followers
January 12, 2011
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

In Pump Six and Other Stories, which won the Locus Award for Best Collection, Paolo Bacigalupi treats us to these ten excellently written biopunk stories:

"Pocketful of Dharma" (1999) — a young street urchin finds a digital storage device which contains some startling data. This is Bacigalupi’s first short story — and it’s impressive. I love the premise of this story and its ambiguous ending. It would be fun to see Bacigalupi extend this one into a novel.

"The Fluted Girl" (2003) — a young girl is at the mercy of her cruel and ambitious mistress. There’s a scene in this story that’s eerie, chilling, and strangely beautiful. Another ambiguous but satisfying ending.

"The People of Sand and Slag" (2004, Nebula nomination, Hugo nomination) — three colleagues are surprised to find an extinct species: a dog. Although this one was nominated for a Nebula and Hugo and has some fascinating ideas, it lacks Bacigalupi’s usual subtlety and feels a bit heavy-handed.

"The Pasho" (2004) — an educated and enlightened man returns to his primitive village. This one has a surprise ending that was really well done.

"The Calorie Man" (2005, Theodore Sturgeon Award, Hugo nomination) — set in Paolo Bacigalupi’s Windup world (the setting for his multi-award winning novel The Windup Girl), generipping and bioterrorism have destroyed the world’s food supply, leaving an oligopoly of a few biotech firms. It took me a while to get the feel for this blighted world, partly because I was listening on audio and couldn’t see the words (e.g., At first I didn’t realize it was “joules” and not “jewels”). Once I read a couple of pages of the print version at Nightshade’s website, I was fine and loved it. This is excellent world building.

"The Tamarisk Hunter" (2006) — during Big Daddy Drought in Colorado, Lolo has found a way to make sure he keeps his job. This is the weakest story. It’s well-written, but lacks the superior qualities of the other stories.

"Pop Squad" (2006) — death has been conquered, human evolution is over, and breeding is now illegal. This story is incredibly disturbing, but wonderfully thought-provoking. The craftsmanship — the symbolism, the imagery, and the juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness, evolution and decay, and life and death — is sublime.

"Yellow Card Man" (2006, Hugo nomination) — a once-proud Chinese shipping magnate who now lives on the streets of Bangkok finds that “fate has a way of balancing itself.” Another Windup world tale, this one had me riveted. I must read that book!

"Softer" (2007) — a man who just killed his wife experiences the world differently in his last days of freedom. Ironically, this is the only story which isn’t set in a hellish dystopia, but it’s the most disturbing of all. I actually had to fast forward through some of the tracks. Perhaps what was scariest is that the murderer’s thoughts made complete sense to me!

"Pump Six" (2008, Locus Award) — Travis, who works for the sewage plant, keeps the toilets running. This is another especially well-crafted piece which is slightly humorous, has an amazing stream-of-consciousness scene that comes across great in audio, and has a slow, chilling, inconspicuous reveal.

I listened to Brilliance Audio’s version of Pump Six and Other Stories, read by James Chen, Jonathan Davis, and Eileen Stevens. Chen was a perfect pick for the Windup stories and Jonathan Davis, a favorite of mine, had some glorious moments (though he had a tendency to suddenly and inexplicably affect a bad Southern accent occasionally).

Every single one of these stories is disturbing, but they’re also excellently written and unforgettable. Bleak, pessimistic dystopian literature isn’t usually my thing, but Paolo Bacigalupi’s stories make great reading due to their superior construction, moody immersive atmospheres, tantalizingly provocative ideas, and sometimes-subtle warnings. Everything Paolo Bacigalupi writes goes on my TBR list.
Profile Image for Stefan.
408 reviews167 followers
January 7, 2011
Paolo Bacigalupi burst onto the scene in a big way with his excellent SF novel The Windup Girl, which rightfully won both glowing reviews and major awards, and followed it up with a great YA novel, Ship Breaker. Both books are set in near-future dystopian settings in which the ruined environment plays a big role. Given all of this, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that Paolo Bacigalupi’s first collection of short stories, Pump Six and Other Stories, is 1) also excellent and 2) continues the thematic thread from his first two novels.

Many of these stories work from the same starting point as the two novels: humanity is attempting to extract beauty, or at least a semblance of normal life, from the wreckage they created when forcibly turning the environment, their society, or both (as the two are inextricably connected in these stories) into something it was never meant to be. Meanwhile, the people who are directly or indirectly responsible for the chaos are either trying to leverage more gains from the destruction or trying to come to terms with what they’ve created.

In short, these are mostly environment-focused dystopias, but like all great science fiction writers, Paolo Bacigalupi is more concerned with the human impact of the scientific changes (be they sociological, environmental, political,...) he uses as starting points for his stories than with the hard science behind them. The end result is an incredibly strong but quite dark collection of short science fiction stories spanning the author’s career. It’s also interesting that, because the stories are arranged in the order in which they were published, you can actually see Paolo Bacigalupi become a better writer from story to story.

In the first two stories, “Pocketful of Dharma” and “The Fluted Girl”, his style is still a bit hesitant and uneven, but that’s easily balanced by the stories’ concepts and surprise twists, which completely took me by surprise. Especially “The Fluted Girl” has a huge “reveal” that absolutely floored me.

In “The People of Sand and Slag”, the Earth is ruined and humans have become indestructible, genetically engineered monsters. The story describes the reaction of a group of security guards when they find an actual living creature — a dog, no less. This is science fiction with such a powerful psychological wallop that it has the same impact as horror.

“The Pasho” compares the power of knowledge to the power of physical strength, as it describes the return of a young man to his desert tribe. The man, now a “pasho” dedicated to preserving knowledge, quickly discovers he has become a stranger in his former home. This story, together with a few others in this collection, has a sufficiently interesting setting that it would be wonderful to see it developed into a full-length work in the future.

Not coincidentally, two of the stories in this collection (“The Calorie Man” and “Yellow Card Man”), were actually the starting point for Paolo Bacigalupi’s celebrated debut novel The Windup Girl. They’re set in the same fictional universe, and one of them can actually be read as the start of the story arc of one of its characters. Both are excellent and highly recommended to readers who enjoyed The Windup Girl.

Between those two stories, you’ll find “The Tamarisk Hunter”, a frighteningly realistic look at a near-future Colorado in the grip of a long-term draught, and “Pop Squad”, which is easily the best story in the collection and one of the most memorable SF stories I’ve ever read. It’s so tightly written, with such a horrid opening and such a stunning climax, that it affected me almost physically. Looking around on Bacigalupi’s blog, I discovered that he used mannerisms from his own son to describe the children in the story, which adds a whole new layer of psychological horror to the story. Simply unforgettable.

The collection closes out strongly with “Softer”, a terrifying look into the strangely calm mind of a murderer, and “Pump Six”, about a devolved future version of humanity that has forgotten how to manage even their most basic necessities.

Pump Six and Other Stories is a stunningly good collection of short fiction by an author who’s fast on his way to becoming one of the premier names in SF. Highly recommended. (4.5 stars)

(This review was also published on 1/7/2011 on www.fantasyliterature.com)
Profile Image for Bee.
411 reviews3 followers
July 16, 2015
Dark, perverted, imaginative and acutely descriptive of our darker nature. Every story caught and kept me until it's twisted ending. He definitely is a talented writer. And a great story teller. But a bit psycho and probably not a particularly nice person. Which makes for perfectly willing suspension if belive. Guest stars include the 15th Dalai Lama, a priesthood that keeps us from developing disastrous tech too quickly, a sociopathic husband making Peace with his wife's murder. Debauchery is a big theme. As is our drive to kill ourselves and our planet with said indulgence. I haven't loved hating so many characters in such terrible circumstance. Bacigalupi does suffering well. He does diseased dystopia with a flourish. The man understands desperation.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
1,215 reviews106 followers
October 19, 2012
If you're not a fan of the well-thought-out dystopia, this book is not for you. These stories are grim. Set in worlds where the oil has run out, chemical buildup causes massive birth defects, and worse, these are the cautionary tales that give environmentalists nightmares. At the same time, they're lyrical, rewarding, and for all that they play with world-shaking cataclysms, focus on the best of stubborn, resilient humanity.

For fans of The Windup Girl, there are two stories here from that universe. "Yellow Card Man" gives us the backstory of one of the minor characters from the novel, while "The Calorie Man" features a quiet rebellion against the big agriculture companies set along the Mississippi River.

There are other stories of small desperations--this is a collection about the hopeless underdog who won't stop fighting. The eponymous heroine of "The Fluted Girl" is a victim of star-hunting and surgical modification gone to barbaric extremes who finds her own way of resisting. "The Tamarisk Hunter" features folks trying to make a living when the water rights run out. And the title story, "Pump Six" features a sewage engineer trying not to succumb to the increasingly dangerous shallowness of the culture around him.

Bacigalupi's imagination is terrifying--he conjures worlds that we would hate to live in, but seem all too plausible. But he has such a gift for description and for characterization that you can't help but be pulled in, and find yourself rooting for his all-too-flawed characters to find, if not peace, at least a kind of dignity.
Profile Image for J.P..
305 reviews49 followers
August 9, 2011
A fantastic collection of stories but heavy on the dark and gloomy. Simular to the theme you'll find in The Windup Girl. Makes most dystopian stories seem like a picnic in the park with crumpets and ladyfingers by comparison. Be that as it may, it's outstanding.
Profile Image for Veronika Sebechlebská.
381 reviews129 followers
July 5, 2018
Po prečítaní tejto knihy budete dúfať, že ste už príliš starí na to, aby ste sa dožili budúcnosti.

Samotné príbehy ma až tak nezaujali a fungovali pre mňa len ako kulisy k svetom za nimi a postavy boli pre mňa väčšinou len sprievodcovia týmito svetmi. Po tejto stránke to bolo fascinujúce čítanie.

Najzaujímavejšie poviedky

Flétnová dívka - nepamätám si, kedy som čítala niečo tak zvrhlo krásne. Len ľutujem, že nemám technickú predstavivosť, takže si to neviem vizualizovať
Malé obětiny - tam som zostala bez slov

Popkomando - z toho na mňa dýchla taká Dickovčina
Písek a struska - 4 tankisti a pes po 500 rokoch. No dobre asi boli len traja a jeden z nich bol žena, ale ten pes tam bol určite. Mňa viac ako príbeh aj tak zaujali larvy v bruchu, čo sa tam len tak mihli. O tomto chcem vedieť viac
Jemnější - posledná poviedka a aj keď sa mi páčila, do tejto knihy sa nehodila. Posledná veta Malých obětín mala podľa mňa byť posledná veta knihy
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,115 reviews112 followers
March 29, 2017
Out of eleven stories in the book, ten can be described as environmental sci-fi. Following footsteps of such sci-fi giants as F. Herbert, but setting the stories on the Earth in more or less distant future. I cannot say whether all stories are assumed to be pieces of a single narrative, probably not. At least two stories, ‘The Calorie Man’ and ‘Yellow Card Man’ are set in the same world as ‘the windup girl’ and the second is a prequel to the novel.
The multitude of themes are risen – population control, especially during high mutations or achieved immortality; bio-modification of human – will it turn them into something else; difference between intelligence and wisdom; even satire (?) on property rights enforcement gone mad.
It I have to chose top three stories they would be:
1. Pump six, for the surreally real world that becomes too stupid for its own good
2. The Pasho, for the great story and allusions, for practices of the Quaran[-tine]
3. Yellow card man, for describing the plight of refugees
Overall, a nice read, maybe too gloomy in places.
Profile Image for David.
Author 18 books349 followers
August 24, 2010
None of the stories in this collection were bad, and some I would rate 4 or even 4.5 stars individually, but nothing really impressed me like the The Windup Girl did. I think my greatest disappointment was the similarity of all the themes: Bacigalupi writes dystopian stories about humanity's greed and selfishness and environmental devastation, and that's all he writes about. Two of the stories in Pump Six are from the same world as The Windup Girl, and most of the others easily could be. He's a good writer, but I'd really like to see him open up a bigger toolbox.
Profile Image for Jason.
94 reviews40 followers
January 3, 2016
This collection of stories is a harbinger, I think, of the direction science fiction will continue to take in the 21st century, and Bacigalupi will likely be remembered as one of its guiding forces. Call it biopunk, or environmental science fiction, or maybe it already has a name - either way, it is literature that deals directly with humanity's current methods of organizing itself, and what effect those methods will have on the planet and on itself. But it's not just that. Bacigalupi is also a glorious writer, an expert at balancing plot and character and setting and theme, of creating tension and shock and horror and, above all, believability, and it is these skills more than anything else for which he should be cherished. To read these early stories is to witness Bacigalupi get a handle on his craft, master it, and then raise it to the level of high art. Not every story in the collection works, but about 2-3 of them are outright masterpieces, and the rest are all very worth spending time with. The direction they take the genre is an important one, and a welcome one.

Pocketful of Dharma: In Bacigalupi's first published story, I was struck by the contrast between the cutting edge biotechnological jargon he uses to describe the living edifice, and the ancient tropes of the tale itself, a story of a poor beggar boy come to the city to make his way, gazing at the tallest building and dreaming the lives of the rich. This is, really, a tale as old as civilization, dressed up in 21st-century bio-punk clothes. The beggar boy is even given a package to deliver to a man "with white gloves," and soon finds himself, as the age-old tale necessitates, in a situation far larger than himself. In tone, it's very film noir, with all the characters interested in locating a datacube that might as well be the Maltese Falcon. A plot gradually reveals itself about a Tibetan rebellion trying to gain leverage over the Chinese and the uploaded AI remnants of the Dalai Lama, but it never really registers. What does register is the vivid imagery of this living architectural monstrosity, a massive animal structure of struts and arteries spreading itself disgustingly throughout the city, literally becoming the city, and the beggar boy's climactic descent down one of its outer surfaces. The "wet organic passageways" and the "damp spongy wall" that bleeds "milky blood" are all intensely visual details, hints of the splendid visual mind that would go on to create the glorious The Windup Girl. Not a bad beginning at all.

The Fluted Girl: This story also feels like a trial run for his later novel, because the titular character, like the windup girl, is a slave girl, a sexual toy, and an "investment." She can fold herself into the tiniest spaces, but also shatters bones too easily. The fairy tale tropes of the castle, fiefs, and glassblowers rest uneasily, I think, with the science fictional aspects, the genetic manipulations and surgeries, and while we do get some exposition about the world beyond the castle walls, it all feels rather artificial, never gelling into a believable and coherent setting. We have a decadent woman straight out of J. G. Ballard's Vermilion Sands, or perhaps Sunset Boulevard, and the story is about her cruel hold over the two "fluted girls" who will perform their art tonight at a social gathering for the amusement of her guests. It is when we learn that "fluted girl" is a term to be taken literally that the story provides its most striking moments. The rest of the story is window dressing for that central reveal, the dance of the fluted girls and the revelation of the torturous alterations inflicted on their bodies in order to create beauty and art. In both these early stories, Bacigalupi seems to be experimenting with the kind of imagery he would later match with more effective plot construction and more masterful world-building, but his plots thus far have been mainly placeholders to showcase some of that wonderful imagery.

The People of Sand and Slag: A knockout punch. This story plunges us immediately into a military-tinged cyberpunk world of miner/soldiers whose body modifications are so extreme and revolting to us that the narrative risks alienating us altogether, and yet doesn't; against all reason, these people strike us as undeniably human, and that the story manages to make us recognize these people, even feel for them, despite the almost cosmic existential horror they represent, is its greatest feat. There are many. Bacigalupi stretches the definition of human further than I would have expected; some of the shocks evoke laughs; others make your jaw drop. All the while, we are being conditioned to understand that, with enough time, humans can become accustomed to absolutely anything. This is a terrifying and topical message, delivered with both confidence and great imaginative force. The plot line follows this group’s debates and fumblings after they encounter a normal, old fashioned 21st century dog; the results are both comical and terribly sad. This is true science fiction in that almost every sentence that appears here could never appear in a “realistic” story, and yet it is the first story in this collection, and thus in Bacigalupi's career, that speaks powerfully about and to us. Outstanding.

The Pasho: This densely written tale begins with the smell of shit in the desert, which is a promising beginning. The rest of the story, though, is a bit harder going. It is set in one of those archaic villages that exist, as far as I can tell, only in precisely these types of stories, where the people are simple folk of the earth and their every action and interaction are proscribed and ritualized and imbued with grave and unchanging significance that reaches back into the mists of time. We discover that these rituals, staying a certain number of meters away from another person, for example, are remnants of a defensive policy ingrained into their minds long ago against some kind of Scourge that destroyed civilization. Now they practice these "old ways" religiously, without awareness of their original intent or when it's time to quit. The villagers are visited by a man who left the village as a child who is now a Pasho, a member of a group dedicated to preserving and re-distributing knowledge back to the people of the Earth. He is characterized somewhat like a monk, the irony being that rather than preaching God, he is here more or less to preach Einstein. In this mission, he finds himself in conflict with the stubborn conservatism of his grandfather, who wants nothing of these newfangled gadgets, like running water. The majority of the tale consists of a debate between these two characters, articulated in a kind of formal and stilted speech meant to symbolize, I suppose, importance and high seriousness. Intermittent excerpts from the Pasho organization presenting its philosophy for how to bring civilization back anchor the story effectively, but I found the characters sketchily-drawn and the attack against ignorance and fear too easy. A genuinely complex ethical question is posed: is it right for one group of people to withhold knowledge from the rest of the world and only give it out piecemeal, when it sees fit, for humanity's own protection? Unfortunately, the grandfather is portrayed as such an ignoramus, and the Pasho so wise and right, that the answer to that question seems to be a simple "yes."

The Calorie Man: Set in the vivid dystopian future of The Windup Girl, this is one of those stories that shakes us out of our easy, arrogant faith in the substructures that hold up our world. In this future, it is impossible to grow food naturally - it all dies. Bacigalupi is a master at word-pictures. He creates devastating imagery within seconds that somehow evokes the entire history of mankind's failures. What is so effective about Bacigalupi's dystopia is how inevitable it feels. The only edible food in this world is genetically-modified, as well as mediated through massive corporations that hold all the patents and technologies to produce and distribute this food, thus essentially holding a hungry world hostage. These calorie companies can be read as metaphors for all corporations on which we depend for essentials, and which, over time, transform our perspective of reality until it aligns with and serves their profit motive. The characters remember a time of unbridled growth called "The Expansion," the excessive era of ever-increasing productivity and natural resource exploitation that led to the following "Contraction," and it is a humbling moment when the reader realizes that this mythical "Expansion" before the fall is our present world, a way of life we come to understand JUST CAN'T LAST. The reader is made to feel a sense of nostalgia for the present, as if it has already slipped away from us. The plot follows two men as they try to rescue a third, a geneticist who has discovered a way to grow natural food independently, a man on the run from the calorie companies, hoping to defeat their monopoly through the power of human ingenuity. The tight plot, engaging point-of-view character, and haunting setting all make this one a great addition to a compelling fictional world.

The Tamarisk Hunter: A short, and rather inaccessible story that begins like a sort of nature documentary. See the tamarisk hunter stalk his prey...we soon learn, though, that tamarisk is a kind of tree, and that we're in the depths of a water shortage stemming from a drought that has gone on for over a decade. Perhaps the story is too short to feel consequential. I found the prose congested, the logistical details confusing, the characters distant. Given how much of Bacigalupi's fiction is "message"-based, it is actually surprising how little of it feels like "message fiction," but this one does. Government oppressively controlling water supply is bad. Government distributing water unfairly is bad. The common theme from Bacigalupi's other work is of a higher authority holding a monopoly and absolute control over the distribution of some limited but essential natural resource, in other cases food, in this case water. But the story gave me no entrance, no reason or way to care. And it offers nothing in the way of theme that, say, The Calorie Man didn't already explore, and more compellingly.

The Pop Squad: And knockout punch number two. It begins with a film noir-tinged crime scene that reminded me somehow of the film Seven (I think it has something to do with the spaghetti). But it soon widens into a harrowing tale of a future Earth populated by high-living immortals, artists and vacationers and concert goers, who have made it illegal to bear children. Bacigalupi seems to be at his best when his stories are told by unreliable narrators, people whose thoughts and assumptions are alien to our own, and we get to follow them as they approach, perhaps reach, perhaps fail to reach, an epiphany about the horror inherent in the way they see the world. Here, that narrator is something like Ray Bradbury's fireman, except instead of burning books, he murders children. The final scene, with the man at a kitchen table with a woman he is about to arrest and a toddler he is about to shoot in the head, is tension of the highest order. This story stylishly and compellingly explores questions about why we live, and why we procreate, and why we sometimes don't. And it's a hell of a read.

Yellow Card Man: Another story set in Bacigalupi's Windup Girl universe, and another reminder of how good he is at weaving together character, setting, imagery, and theme. This one is more of a world-building exercise than a story, perhaps, and more of a character exploration than a plot, but it is a great character piece. The man of the title is explored with wonderful insight and powerful sympathy, and like many of Bacigalupi's well-realized characters, he is a natural outgrowth of his environment. By this point in the collection, one may be inclined to start taking Bacigalupi's excellent prose and storytelling abilities for granted - but one shouldn't. These stories are starting to feel effortless, but I'm sure they weren't. Another immersive slice of future horror.

Softer: This is the only story in the collection that doesn't feel like it had to come from Bacigalupi's pen. It could have been written just as well by Harlan Ellison, or Stephen King. The opening sentence feels like an attempt to shock, and maybe this idea was shocking to readers of Robert Browning's "Porphyria's Lover" back in 1836, but now it comes off as cliche, like an undergraduate creative writing student's idea of a hook. The premise is entirely unoriginal, though the story is written well. The murder scene itself is of course excellent, since Bacigalupi excels at capturing believable, if repulsive, psychology, but the man is clearly a sociopath, so any identification with the character is impossible. Basically, Bacigalupi perceptively captures some daily frustrations we all feel, and then presents a character who kills his wife because of them, and then feels nothing. Cute, but we've been here before. This is Beethoven doodling a limerick.

Pump Six: The experience of reading this story is one of a gradual widening of perception. Each movement of the story removes an outer ring blocking our view, until the end when we, and the protagonist with us, suddenly see the whole world exactly as it is. We start with a bizarre domestic dispute; then we meet the trogs, the "mash-faced monkey people" who hang out on New York intersections having orgies and grinning at passersby; we find ourselves in a future New York of filth, backed-up sewage, contaminated drinking water, drug-infused parties, and mutated children. The trogs are a brilliant invention, funny and gross and unnerving, but the protagonist's mental journey here is even better. His job is to man the pumps that keep millions of New York City toilets from overflowing. But the pumps are breaking down, and he doesn't know why. Shockingly, it has never occurred to him before (or to his boss) to go to the pumps directly and check the maintenance warnings. So now he does this. And he finds he has no idea how to follow them. Neither does his boss. They look up the company that services the pumps. It turns out it went bankrupt almost half a century ago. So, the protagonist sets out for Columbia University's Engineering department - surely someone there knows how to follow maintenance instructions! The tone up to this point has been a sort of dark comedy of errors, but those rings blocking our perception are being removed one by one, and what he finds at his destination is chilling, its implications horrifying. The library’s doors are mostly padlocked. He finds a way in. He walks through the abandoned library and corridors of the university. He meets an old woman among the dust and condom wrappers and piles of ashes who informs him that the Engineering department shut down 20 years ago. Outside the windows, university students who have joined the trogs in their orgiastic madness are grinning and waving at him to come outside and join them. This is when the world outside finally comes into focus: this is not a functioning city at all, the protagonist and the reader realize all at once, but the shell of one, its builders’ descendants living in the ruins. There is no one alive with the intelligence to run the city. The inmates have taken over the asylum not through force, but merely through living long enough and being the only ones left. Bacigalupi is a master at these limited, unreliable narrators who gradually learn to see the true horror of their world, and here in this last story of the collection, he gives us one of his finest.

Together, these stories are like a statement about what the genre ought to be writing about. It reminds me of the sprouting cyberpunk movement of the early 80's announcing its presence, but Bacigalupi does this without the fanfare, or the 40-page introductions. He just does it by writing amazing stories. We should read them, and then follow him wherever he wants to take us next.
Profile Image for Nikola Jankovic.
559 reviews111 followers
September 13, 2017
Bacigalupi je pesimista. Ovih deset priča (ustvari devet, jedna je padobranac i priča o ubistvu žene iz prvog lica njenog muža) govori o budućnosti čovečanstv. I ta budućnost nije lepa. Problemi sa kojima ćemo se suočavati su nedostatak vode, prenaseljenost, nedostatak resursa generalno, a osećaj je da se sve priče dešavaju u vrlo sličnom univerzumu bliske budućnosti.

Neke priče su veoma uznemirujuće. Kao na primer ona ispričana iz prvog lica o ekipi koja traži decu i zadužena je za njihovu eliminaciju. Rađanje je zabranjeno zbog toga što ljudi žive večno i planeta je prenaseljena. Osim te (Popsquad) ocenu 5 zaslužuju i Pump Six (govori o problemu zaglupljivanja čovečanstva), The People of Sand and Slag (čovečanstvo je evoluiralo toliko da nam se tela sama leče, a prehranjujemo se svačim i ničim - gde je onda tu mesto za običnu životinju, kao što je pas?) i The Calorie Man (čovečanstvo kakvo poznajemo je doživelo kolaps resursa i najveći resursi su postali jouli, koje proizvodimo iz kinetičke energije).

Sve pripovetke su ispričane vrlo lično i iz ugla stanovnika takvog sveta - koji u većini slučajeva ipak shvati da je u nekom trenutku nešto gadno pošlo u pogrešnom pravcu.

Preostalih 6 priča je prosek, tako da matematika kazuje da kolekcija ne zaslužuje 5, zar ne? Kao prosek ocena možda ne, ali ove četiri su toliko sjajne, da te teraju da ostaviš knjigu po strani i zastaneš, a verujem i da ću im se vratiti.

Jaka preporuka. Ne ubedljivo, ali ipak bolja kolekcija od Priče tvog života, koje sam čitao ove godine.
Profile Image for Lightreads.
641 reviews533 followers
January 29, 2010
Specfic collection, with a tilt towards smart, scary near-future dystopias. People keep comparing him to Ted Chiang. It's accurate in that they're both really good short storyists, but Bacigalupi is doing fundamentally different things than Chiang does. These stories stress-test individual pieces of what we think of as our normal infrastructure – safe drinking water, reproduction, renewable food sources. A few selections, with links to the stories where available online. I recommend the whole collection, though.

"Pop Squad." The problem with immortality is that you really wouldn't want new babies, would you? The one that's sticking with me the most right now. Ouch.

"The Calorie Man," and "Yellow Card Man." Two stories in the same universe, but different hemispheres. When food monocultures are intellectual property, and calories are contraband. Wow. Read them both here.

"The People of Sand and Slag." A different dystopic take on what it would be like if we were all immortal. This freaked me right out. It's prototypical of the collection: beautifully written and effective in its transparent manipulativeness. Read it here.
Profile Image for Dani Dányi.
459 reviews57 followers
March 11, 2021
Bacigalupi novellái legalább olyan erősek, mint A felhúzható lány regénye, ami ebben a világban játszódik. A novellák töredékesen, sok különféle helyszín és sereplő és időszak során, mozaikosan tárják fel, milyen disztopikus-ökohorror jövőt vízionál az emberiségnek az író. A nyomasztó benne persze az, hogy mindez nagyon is elképzelhető és többé-kevésbé reális. Ami nagyon jó, ahogyan az emberi érzéseket, ezek állandóságát, és a társadalmi normák és konvenciók során ezek átrendeződését is biztos kézzel kottázza, hol finoman, hol pedig brutálisan. Remek kötet, egy kivételes írótól.
Profile Image for Nicholas Karpuk.
Author 4 books65 followers
September 13, 2013
I've avoided short story collections for quite a while. My general glib answer is that by the time I'm invested in the characters, the story is over.

After reading a few really quality short story collections lately, I've reevaluated that stance. My real problem is distrust.

You have to trust that the editor, or in this case the writer, have good taste and vision when they pick what's placed within the collection. When it's a single writer's stories this becomes much easier.

Investment comes quickly in Bacigalupi stories, he doesn't give me time to doubt my investment in each new premise. Each story has a satisfying heft, a huge world with a nice little chunk taken out of it. He makes his huge scenarios surprisingly approachable time and time again.

Not to say that it's science fiction of wide-eyed wonder and deep-space exploration. His stories generally center on something that's slipped horribly out of place in our society's development and in technology.

I appreciate his willingness to avoid dystopia, which has degenerated into a YA cliche in recent years. The world has gone awry in most Bacigalupi stories, but people have adapted, they've made a new life under the new requirements and challenges. It's what made The Windup Girl one of my favorite books of the year, and you can see the same energy and intellect on display in this collection.

Speaking of the Windup Girl, there are two stories from the same universe in this collection. What impresses me the most is that they don't come off as a not-quite version of that world, a rough draft for his final vision. Both stories serve as interesting prequels to the book, and simultaneously manage to feel self-contained.

Bacigalupi displays more imagination and invention in this short story collection than a lot of writers display in an entire career. My only regret is that he lacks more work to read.
Profile Image for Carlos.
157 reviews1 follower
January 16, 2013
No conecto con Bacigalupi. Le reconozco imaginación en la creación del entorno, con la capacidad para bosquejar una disto pía verosímil en pocas páginas. Le reconozco capacidad para sumergirte en un entorno sucio donde la vida se ha convertido en supervivencia. No le falta habilidad para darte un retrato seco con economía de palabras y llevar el relato.

Pero creo que se deshincha en historias que no están a la altura de su entorno, en el que se difuminan. En cierto sentido es como hacer una historia en una utopía, ¿qué clase de emoción se puede crear cuando lo que realmente se está contando es lo que podría haber alrededor? Además sus personajes suelen tener dos o tres registros básicos más bien típicos de la novela negra y sus secundarios parecen sacados de Blade Runner. Quizá el problema sea el tono monocromático de sus relatos, donde no deja mucho espacio para el cambio de color. Todo es de un deprimente gris en el que no hay contrastes, ni siquiera el paso al negro. Es el día a día pero con cambio climático, productos tóxicos y tecnologías avanzadas que no llegan a mejorar nada. La vida misma, o sea. Salvo en contadas ocasiones, ni las relaciones entre personajes salen de esa dinámica cenicienta.

Entiendo que esto es lo que pretende Bacigalupi, así que le concedo un éxito rotundo en el intento. Sin embargo, no consigo que me interese ni en tema, trama ni en forma mas que algunas veces en Pump Six, (People of Sand and Slag es bastante buena, y el final de the Fluted girl está a la altura de la paciencia que hay que tener para seguir el puteo a la pobre chica), no acabo de compartir el entusiasmo por este autor. Pero igual es cosa mía porque lo mismo me pasa con Gibson y con Johnny Rotten.
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,446 reviews548 followers
May 1, 2009
"The Calorie Man" is incredible. A world strangled by food monocultures and IP.
"Pop Squad": humans can live forever, can spend as long as they please perfecting their art, learning, becoming incredible athletes. But in exchange, having children is illegal. Stunning. (Can't help but think that the answer is space travel)
"Yellow Card Man" is the best of the bunch. Absolutely chilling tale of crushing poverty. Set in the same world as "The Calorie Man".

These stories make my heart hurt.
Profile Image for Jonfaith.
1,888 reviews1,415 followers
July 6, 2013
After pawing through the first story in Pump Six, I imagined it would constitute serial penalty kicks for the grim master. Having just completed the final, titular story, I found Bacigalupi less-than-Lampard but still able to fill the net. Maybe I'm a poor keeper.

Shoving aside my aversions to both stories and matters that involve outer space, I was certainly moved by the philosophy of the collection as a whole. We perceive these threats in our trends our habits, our waste. We don't dare ponder an intensification of such, thankfully, Mr. Bacigalupi does.
Profile Image for Overbooked  ✎.
1,533 reviews
June 11, 2016
Wow, talk about dark … this was bleak and, at times, disturbing read, but Mr Bacigalupi’s originality and genius cannot be denied. Although I didn’t like all of the stories in the collection, some are really uncomfortable to read, each one of them presents something worth thinking about. My favourites were The fluted girl and The Pasho.
While I acknowledge it’s not suited to everyone’s tastes, this collection it’s not an easy read but makes you think. Recommended to lovers of (very) dark fiction.
Profile Image for Paul Ataua.
1,454 reviews144 followers
March 3, 2018
I am not sure why I took so long to get around to reading Bacigalupi’s 'Pump Six and Other Stories'. 10 fantastic stories honing in on dystopian futures, but stories in which what it is to be human is the central focus. I enjoyed all of the ten, but my three favorites were ‘The Fluted Girl’, ‘Pop Squad’, and ‘Pump Six’. These three stayed with me long after I had finished them.
Profile Image for Zardoz.
431 reviews9 followers
October 11, 2020
Warning: This collection of short stories is extremely dark and dystopian. Having a bad year? Think 2020 sucks? Well these stories are much much worse than this crazy year.
Having said that here are my favorites.

The Fluted Girl
The Calorie Man
The Tamarisk Hunter
Yellow Card Man
Pocketful Of Dharma

These are all absolutely brilliant!
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