Spooky action at a distance

Book Review, Everything for Everyone

Thinking of writing more media reviews and short blog posts because why not.

Everything For Everyone is a series of fictional interviews set in a future anarchist commune of New York. Each character tells a piece to the puzzle of the revolution, what led up to it, and what happens next.

Everything For Everyone: An Oral History of the New York Commune, 2052-2072. M.E. O’Brien & Eman Abdelhadi. Common Notions, August 2, 2022.

I have a soft spot for fictional works styled as documentaries, and Everything For Everyone really nails it. Even though the naturalistic dialogue/monologue (or the funky future lingo) sometimes feels forced, overall it manages to feel coherent and full of character. It’s like something you could read in a magazine. The oral history set-up also works because characters have a reason to share exposition and common setting facts. It is a soup of lore, with a focus on the personal experiences and perspectives of the characters. Interviewees range from teenagers who spent their whole lives in the commune to veterans who participated in its creation.

The series of events before and during the revolution are purposefully kept vague. There is also a sense that the characters don’t really want to recall the hardships they endured. Things got significantly worse before they became better. How do they become better? Governments around the world are replaced by collectives of local communes that manage distribution and production. I like the fresh take (we don’t have many explicitly leftist sci-fi stories), but for me this scenario results in two problems. The first would be the odd chapter on China, where they have a second communist uprising, which feels unreasonable. Second, I get the sense that it’s a bit too convenient that the whole world became anarchist at nearly the same time. However, as a reader, I am okay with just accepting these as part of the premise.

I want to compare Everything For Everyone with New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson, which I read a while ago and was very disappointed by. In 2140, there is very little change to the institutions that govern New York. Specifically, it feels like 2008, only with higher sea levels. I say 2008 because the story revolves around a financial crisis connected to the housing market. In the end of the novel, the Fed is convinced to nationalise the banks instead of bailing them. While maybe 2140 builds a more believable world, I am disappointed that even 100+ years from now, society is so familiar. Everything For Everyone imagines new relationships (to gender, to nature, to family etc.) that feel awe-inspiring, but not completely out of reach.

It is interesting that aesthetically the two books share quite a few elements. Both have communal housing and green transportation, both deal with climate catastrophes and wildlife conservation efforts. However, the solutions and societies these books imagine are worlds apart. The difference - incremental reform versus radical revolution.

Published on July 31, 2023.

Tagged: book   review   scifi  


Spooky action at a distance is a blog run by emmy verte, to muse on sci-fi, fantasy location exploration and short fiction. You can donate to support Ukraine here.