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Pump Six and Other Stories [Hardcover]

Paolo Bacigalupi

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Book Description

Feb. 1 2008
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."

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books (Feb. 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159780133X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597801331
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 14.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,409,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bacigalupi's stellar first collection of 10 stories displays the astute social commentary and consciousness-altering power of the very best short form science fiction. The Hugo-nominated The Calorie Man explores a post–fossil fuel future where genetically modified crops both feed and power the world, and greedy megacorporations hold the fates of millions in their hands. The People of Sand and Slag envisions a future Earth as a contaminated wasteland inhabited by virtually indestructible post-humans who consume stone and swim in petroleum oceans. The Tamarisk Hunter deals with the effects of global warming on water rights in the Southwest, while the title story, original to this volume, follows a New York sewage treatment worker who struggles to repair his antiquated equipment as the city's inhabitants succumb to the brain-damaging effects of industrial pollutants. Deeply thought provoking, Bacigalupi's collected visions of the future are equal parts cautionary tale, social and political commentary and poignantly poetic, revelatory prose. (Apr.)
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  99 reviews
55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Stories from a Very Possible Future May 10 2008
By David B Richman - Published on Amazon.com
I first read a short story by Paolo Bacigalupi in High Country News. It was "The Tamarisk Hunter" about a man named Lolo who removes the weed trees from a water hungry Southwest and who has a darker secret. It was well written and very plausible to those who know the tamarisk (or saltcedar, as it is also called) and the water problems of the southwestern border states. I then found this collection titled "Pump Six and Other Stories" in the local library.

These are dark stories of a Dalai Lama in a datacube, a modified human, a world of scavengers, a cultural conflict, genetically engineered life forms, population crises, life in a future Thailand, murder and a polluted world, as well as the tamarisk hunter. To a large degree these are cautionary tales - tales of what might be, if we take no action or take the wrong action. The biggest fear is that they will happen despite anything we can do and the author does not relieve us of this fear. Finally, these are finely crafted stories of the very near and far futures of human existence and they will leave you very uneasy. For all that, they are well worth the reading.
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ecology of Fear Feb. 14 2009
By doomsdayer520 - Published on Amazon.com
Once in a while you stumble across a writer who isn't a big name, but you're convinced that he must have many existing books that are ripe for discovery, because in the first one you find so much experience and maturity. Well this is actually Paolo Bacigalupi's first book and I'm already salivating for more, as he has unleashed what has to be the most bodacious speculative fiction debut in recent memory. The short stories here are from Bacigalupi's periodic and consistently award-winning submissions to various magazines and anthologies. (Watch for his debut novel in late 2009). Bacigalupi's stories are mostly near-future dystopias, but he has a unique specialization - dystopias caused by current environmental problems or challenges in international relations.

For example, "The People of Sand and Slag" and "The Tamarisk Hunter" feature near-future humans who have gone to terrifying lengths to adapt to the ruination of the world by our current pollution patterns, and "The Calorie Man" shows a disturbing worldview based on the little-known current social problem of the creeping corporate control of farming practices. "The Pasho" and "Yellow Card Man" are allegories of globalization and the slowly developing misery to come from this modern ideological craze. Another high point here (in a collection full of high points) is the beautifully disturbing "The Fluted Girl," a tale of body modification gone mad. Bacigalupi's stories are consistently haunting but often with open-ended conclusions, giving the reader a feeling of possible hope amidst ecological and social chaos. If you're into modern speculative fiction and distressingly believable dystopian visions, keep an eye on Paolo Bacigalupi. A star is born. [~doomsdayer520~]
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Audio version Jan. 11 2011
By Kat Hooper - Published on Amazon.com
Format:MP3 CD
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.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant writing, depressing stories Jan. 1 2013
By Steven Saus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
There are some books (and stories) that you want to like... but can't. Unfortunately, this collection of Mr. Bacigalupi's work falls squarely in that category for me. These stories are lush - many of them set in the same near-future dystopian world. There are a lot of good things in these stories as well. The storytelling is lush and skillful. The characters are NOT the run-of-the-mill white, middle-class Americans you so often end up seeing... but are still so convincingly written that you empathize with them anyway. The future dystopia is clearly and thoughfully constructed without being the same old same old with a fresh coat of paint.

The problem I had is that many of the stories were... depressing. Not disturbing. I'm okay with disturbing. Instead, many of the stories were just sad. It often seemed as though a patina of hopelessness was washed over the pages. And I don't do sad very well, even though I recognize the skill both in the worldbuilding and writing itself.

As it stands, the skill on display made this collection worth reading, even if I didn't actually *like* it. But if depressing plots don't bother you, then Mr. Bacigalupi's writing in this collection will be a treat, and you should snag it ASAP.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic June 13 2010
By Jacob Glicklich - Published on Amazon.com
A collection of science fiction short stories, some but not all set in the same universe. Confirms Bacigalupi as one of the most effective writers of modern times, showing an incredible command of language, intensity of situation, and range of emotions.

Fairly dark stuff in here, with most of the stories concerning environmental collapse and the resultant suffering, austerity, adaptation and compromised morality that accompanies such an event. Even in a situation without hope the stories avoid simplistic moral censure or flat despair, instead pointing to the complexity and strong human connection that runs even in a self-inflicted apocalypse. The best story here by far is "The Yellow Card Man", but there's not a bad one in here, and a number of pieces deserve to stand as classics of the genre.

Similar to and better than: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. That novel is an expansion of several of the author's previous short stories, and brings similar virtues to play. However it's ultimately a lot less energetic and has a few dubious commitments in pace and theme, and only occasionally summons the same type of murky moral intensity commonly on display in these stories.

Similar to and worse than: Story of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. Ultimately Chiang's short stories show equal command of language and intensity while offering more variety, from hard science fiction to mythological fantasy. Each author is awesome in producing atmosphere along with and linked to story, but Chiang's pieces ultimately feature a more fascinating picture of human futures and alternate pasts.

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