At its best, Pump Six reminds me of George Saunders and Lucius Shepard: Saunders for the wry yet disturbing cautionary near-future dystopias, Shepard for the core of outrage that runs deep through these stories — except where the anger of Shepard’s breakthrough fiction was directed at U.S. imperialism, Bacigalupi seems driven by environmental issues. “The Calorie Man,” is a tour-de-force: a bleak tale of a Mississippi river trip through a land transformed by monoculture, patented genetics, and the absence of petroleum products. It’s hair-raising, vivid, and all-too-credible.
The weakest of these stories, like “The Fluted Girl,” and “The Pasho,” rely too much on concealing information from the reader to achieve their impact. The latter in particular challenges the reader to determine which of a barrage of unfamiliar terminology is derived from current language, but (to risk a slight spoiler) while to “keep Quaran” has a nice pseudo-religious ring, it isn’t believable slang for “maintaining quarantine.”
Overall this is a strong collection. If nothing here quite equals “The Calorie Man,” several of the stories come close.
needs more demons? nope.