cover image Universal Love

Universal Love

Alexander Weinstein. Holt, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-1-250-14435-5

Set in the near future, Weinstein’s troubling and compassionate collection (after Children of the New World) imagines some dire ramifications of social media and robotics. In the sweetly comic “The Year of Nostalgia,” a dead woman returns in the form of a hologram, complete with memories and personality traits assembled from her social media accounts and diaries. Leah, the reanimated woman’s daughter, discovers a more adventurous, free-spirited version of her mother than the Midwestern housewife she remembered, since the hologram has been programmed to act on her desires for travel and romance. The portentous “Beijing,” set in a future version of the city so polluted that it’s only possible to navigate by stopping at stations that dispense breathable air, follows a gay American expatriate whose lover has become addicted to having his memories removed through microsurgeries, leaving the men’s relationship suspended in the present. In the chilling “Childhood,” the robot “son” of a suburban couple observes his older robot sister becoming addicted to illicitly smoking her “emotion card” through a glass pipe. Though some of the stories lean on intriguing concepts without developing complete narratives, the collection convincingly explores many potential effects of social engineering. Channeling Ray Bradbury with contemporary allegories, Weinstein will make readers think twice about their relationship to technology. (Jan.)