Blood & Water
Edited by Hayden Trenholm
Conflicts over resources are as old as human history.
Climate change, along with continued population expansion and changes to the world economic order, adds a significant new factor to the equation. We can live without diamonds and gold, we can even find alternatives to oil, but water, food, land, and air are irreplaceable.
Blood & Water presents an impressive collection of writers representing every region of the country whose stories are set from coast to coast to coast.
Mostly science fiction, with a sprinkling of the fantastic, Blood and Water presents a bleak future – but also offers hope and even joy.
Perhaps that is the ‘uniquely Canadian perspective’- every conflict has a resolution, every problem has an answer.
Blood & Water provided some interesting food for thought. The outlook for Canada’s future in a time of climate devastation and a scarcity of resources is as wide and varied as the authors who contributed to this anthology. This diversity of outlooks provides some variation in story themes in what could have easily been a one-note collection. However, there is still a lot of overlap — too much water in some parts of Canada, a scarcity of it in others, oil is depleted, crime and gangs basically rules all, and it’s every Canadian for themselves.
It makes me wonder if Canada would ever reach such a point. The authors have, of course, taken scenarios to an extreme to create a good story, but it still makes me wonder.
For the most part, the stories in this collection range from good to very good, with a few outstanding contributions. I have to admit that the two stories I enjoyed the most were the ones that didn’t get all scientific and technical, and weren’t set in an almost post-apocalyptical Canada.
“Spirit Dance” by Douglas Smith is perhaps the most ill-fitting story in this collection, but it still ranks as a favourite of mine. The main plot has little to do with resource wars or climate change — it has more to do with a population of human-animal shifters in Canada (who can shift from human to a specific type of animal, and also have the ability to command animals of that type), investigating a death.
“Watching Over the Human Garden” by Jean-Louis Trudel is another stand-out for me. This one left most of the scientific mumbo-jumbo behind and entered into the world of spirituality, memory, love, and hope. It was the final entry in the anthology and a perfect ending to the collection.
It strikes me that these two stories were the strongest because they used the future setting as a starting point, not a focal point. When a book deals with an issue, much like this one does, it can be hard to care about the characters, as they are often not as fleshed out as the setting or the science. Most of the stories in this anthology were like that — the characters were often shorted in favour of the setting, the science, or the plot. While most of these stories were still very good, they would have been excellent if they had included even just a few hundred words more to develop the characters a little deeper, to give us a reason to truly care about them.
And, being a Canadian book, I’m not surprised by the fact that most of the stories had a sad ending or mediocre — very few happy endings here. Us Canadians seem to enjoy that sort of thing and I don’t know why. I found that mood mostly suited this book, but, from time to time, it did get a little much. Thankfully, there was the occasional ray of (non-lethal) sunshine to brighten the reader’s experience.
Blood & Water is a thought-provoking read of Canada’s near-future. The question isn’t so much “will this happen?” The question is more “What can we do now so that we don’t even have to contemplate such a future?”