Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail! is a cross-genre anthology of stories themed around riots, revolts and revolution with a dash of crime and noir thrown in the mix. The book came to my attention because it features a story co-written by Cory Doctorow in addition to contributions by Michael Moorcock and Kim Stanley Robinson, but I’m glad I took the time to check out the rest of the collection because it offers a potent (not to say, incendiary) and diverse mix of original and previously out-of-print stories that work together to deliver a powerful punch.
(If you’re curious about the origin of the book’s title, check out this song by The Flys.)
Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail! features eighteen stories that vary in length from two page miniatures to novella-length works. The mix of contributors is equally varied, ranging from established SF authors such as Doctorow, Moorcock, and Robinson to writers who are better known for thrillers and non-genre fiction. The common thread that loosely keeps this collection together is the subject matter: riots, revolutions, and uprisings. With a total of eighteen stories it’s hard to review all of them, so I’ll write about the three SF stories first, in order of appearance, and then highlight a few of my favorites from the rest of the collection.
The first science fiction entry in the collection is Kim Stanley Robinson’s “The Lunatics,” a beautiful story about slave laborers working deep underground in lunar mines, forced to excavate promethium, a mysterious substance that powers the distant Earth economy but also has the strange side effect of enhancing the slaves’ atrophied senses. “The Lunatics” is a great, claustrophobic story that feels somewhat like a lighter version of Joe Mastroianni’s stunning “Jordan’s Waterhammer.”
Next up is Michael Moorcock’s “Gold Diggers of 1977 (Ten Claims that Won Our Hearts),” which was originally published in 1980 as “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” to go along with the Sex Pistols movie by the same title, and then revised in 1989 by Michael and Linda Moorcock. This novella is a wild, crazy ride through London (and through time) featuring Jerry, Frank and Mrs. Cornelius, as well as the shades of several dead rock musicians and a cast of regulars from the Jerry Cornelius stories. If you’re familiar with the Jerry Cornelius mythos and the Sex Pistols movie, you’ll have a blast with this hectic novella, and for Moorcock fans its inclusion may actually be enough reason in itself to buy this anthology. However, if you’re not that familiar with the many adventures of Mr. J.C. and his friends, this novella may be challenging because it refers extensively to many of the side characters and plots from other Cornelius stories.
The third SF story in the collection (and the one that originally led me to pick up the book) is “I Love Paree,” co-written by Cory Doctorow and Michael Skeet. Lee Rosen and his young cousin Sissy get caught up in a workers’ revolution in a surreal future Paris. The story follows Lee as he tries to free himself and discover what happened to his cousin. “I Love Paree” is dark and violent but at the same time surreal and fun, in large part because of its odd Clockwork Orange-like version of Paris.
Most SFF fans will probably pick up Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail! because of one or more of these three stories by famous SF authors, but if you don’t mind wandering outside of the boundaries of the genre, there are many other goodies to be found here. Here are a few of my favorites:
1.) “Berlin: Two Days in June” by Rick Dakan is a gorgeous little story about a young sales rep walking around present day Berlin, trying to sell a social marketing app to shopkeepers but getting caught up in the history of the city. The way this story hits the intersection of technology and human emotion is just wonderful.
2.) “Cincinnati Lou” by Benjamin Whitmer was, for me, the big discovery in this anthology. The story’s protagonist, Derrick Kreiger, is a fascinating scumbag you will want to read more about and luckily, it looks like Whitmer’s debut novel Pike features the same main character. Based on “Cincinnati Lou” I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for more works by this author.
3.) “The El Rey Bar” by Andrea Gibbons (who co-edited the anthology with Gary Phillips) is a sad, beautiful snapshot of a group of people in a Los Angeles dive bar in the wake of unspecified terrorist attacks and riots. It’s one of several stories in this book looking at the human cost of revolutions, and one of the best ones.
Other favorites include Sara Paretsky’s “Poster Child,” a scarily plausible look at what the extreme polarization of a complex issue can lead to; Summer Brenner’s “Orange Alert,” a hilarious story about Golden Girls planning the next revolution from their retirement home; and Tim Wohlfort’s “One Dark Berkeley Night,” a beautiful two part story about the wide-ranging aftermath of a random shooting. And that’s not even mentioning other gems like “Masai’s Back in Town” by Gary Phillips, “Look Both Ways” by Luis Rodriguez, and the two gorgeous, mysterious miniatures “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and “Darkness Drops” by Larry Fondation.
Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail! is an excellent, eclectic anthology of stories, a perfect book to read now the cold autumn weather is starting to chill the OWS protesters. The struggle continues… so get your grind on!