cover image Real Sugar Is Hard to Find

Real Sugar Is Hard to Find

Sim Kern. Android, $18.99 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-958121-03-0

Climate change, reproductive freedom, parenthood, and queer love resonate throughout these 11 powerhouse stories from Kern (Depart, Depart!). A woman forced to carry a doomed pregnancy to term in a near-future dystopia where plants are scarce and “reproductive crimes” are harshly punished risks arrest to cultivate abortifacient plants in the furious, gorgeous “The Propagator.” The bittersweet title story sees a quest for rare cake ingredients sending the privileged 17-year-old protagonist and his mother far from the domed community that protects them from Earth’s ravaged atmosphere and into the heart of a crime syndicate. The pregnant protagonist of the sweet, thoughtful “The New Nomad,” set on a colonized planet spinning out of orbit, struggles with the ethics of bringing life into a doomed world. Kern plays with genre in “Unwhole,” which delivers visceral postpartum body horror, and “Sister, Fly or Die,” a madcap urban fantasy about a pair of magical best friends who join a group of ecoterrorists to save their enchanted forest home. The lovely, optimistic “The Lost Roads” sends things out on a hopeful note, imagining what it would take to abolish roads and turn pavement back into paradise. Kern is a master at creating worlds that feel vast and lived-in with very few words, as well as balancing pathos with wry humor. The result is a searing, urgent, but still achingly tender work that will wow any reader of speculative fiction. (Aug.)