Human civilization has progressed beyond expectations in the recent times and so has increased the complexity of life. Society has undergone a radical change over the last five decades or so. It will not be an exaggeration of facts if we say that the definition of relation between human is on the verge of a question mark. Particularly after the internet being the controlling force of the world-every definition of terms that defines human psychology are virtually redefined. Today friendship does not mean an emotional relation-but friendship in social networking sites means a bunch of unknown individuals ready to provide likes for the most ridiculous of posts. Gone are the days of romance when there was another type of thrill in biting the forbidden fruit. It is the age of speed dating now. We are virtually heading towards a blind lane of evolution. No doubt we the human species are the fittest till now, but are we making a firm stand on the question of survival? Or we are heading to a point of no return? If the pace of ‘progress’ remains unaltered for the next couple of decades or so-then what will be our future?
‘Free to Good Homes’ by Anne Kelleher is an anthology of short stories. There are seven stories in the collection namely-Free to good home, After the rapture, Enhanced, Conjuring Johnny deep, Finding south side journey, Raising Jerry Garcia and Walking with Elvis. All the stories are portrayed on a futuristic background. But they are not science fiction stories. Anne has made a picture of the world of a future where all the human emotions, all the human sentiments are no longer the same. It s a world where the old values, the ethics have been replaced by codes of conduct, more suited to humanoids. It is the story of the future –projected by the present.
Let us start the discussion of the anthology with the very first story-Feel to Good Homes. In our society we are seeing a radical change towards the outlook of the old. Particularly after the Second World War, family values have been started to be redefined in the west. Even in the eastern countries-the concept of family is getting a new perspective. It is now the nucleus family-where the family members of the generation Y no longer consider the elders as an inseparable part of the family. Elder family members are forced to live a life of the destitute-sometimes literally. Particularly in our Indian society there are daily instances on newspapers where the son or daughter drives away his or her parents out of house, forcibly takes away their possession. And believe me –they are neither instances of horror stories nor exceptional. Nobody these days looks after their emotional needs. They are now truly burden of the family. They are forced to create a life of their own and lives within a cocoon.
In this backdrop Anne glances towards the future-the future where the older generations are literally considered orphans and can be put up for adoption. Anne has a fascinating style of making ideas clear-where a harmless looking advertisement tells the whole story
‘He glanced down as the dino-bot places a plate with a slice of lemon meringue pie in front of him. The pamphlet reads-‘When it’s time to sever the cord’ and features a photograph of a smiling gray haired woman embraced by a younger couple and children, as another younger couple drives off waving the background.’
However our protagonist had some initial hesitation, which means some residue of old values are left within him-but his wife-who is rather interested in raising kittens than children did not have so. However they were not feeling the pinch as their mother was not with them. However, soon he was forced to reconsider his decision amid a rather emberracing situation for himself. He got a call from the cops and discovered that his mother was detained for selling her legal medico drugs in an illegal way. And in the way back home-or rather that should be a home-he had a firm decision.
But could he convert that decision into reality? Or rather still-was he given any opportunity to convert his wish into reality? The reader was compelled to stand on the mirror-to have a look at him-to themselves. It is a crude reality when humanity has been merged into an all prevailing hollowness. The last quote from the mother says it all
‘We are so lucky it’s not the old days.’ She says ‘when people thought the only way to make a family was with blood.’
Anne has a direct approach of saying her things-an approach that can hurt her readers like a sharp pointed arrow. But that does not mean she is a pessimist- she does not think in all negativity. She has only showed the blunt reality-where the wheels of progress can lead us into. The truth is more barely represented in the second story of the anthology-After the rapture.
Many writers have written stories-possibly science fiction stories on the days of holocaust. How it might come-how it is going to hurt the people-and so on. Very few of them have lived off the expectations. ‘After The Rapture’ is the story where the days of holocaust have taken up a new dimension. Throughout the whole story the writer has played with the psychology of the protagonists. It is the game of uncertainty-the theory of improbable that dominates the story. Even after finishing the story the readers minds starts swinging between yes and no-the reader can not get certain whether he had finished a story where the main characters passed through illusions or it was reality. This makes it a remarkable read.
Overall the futuristic stories have all the recipes of being a perfect anthology of short stories.
The review was done courtesy to the copy provided by the writer in association with Word Slinger Publicity