bookaneer's review

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4.5 stars. I regret that I let this fantastic collection languishing in my TBR shelf for two years. It is actually one of the best collections I read in years!

23 tales of caregivers. There's a space welder apprentice, a seeing-eye dog with a power of speech, a companion to an ant-like alien queen, a hardened soldier in the frontier, a therapy cat serving the Goddess Bast, a monster hunter, there are so many marvelous POVs that are so engaging to read.

In his introduction, Dominik Parisien said that The Sum of Us asks 'Who cares for the caregivers?' The answer is the other caregivers....and us, the reader. We read this to show our care, our recognition of their personhood, inner lives, matter beyond the myriad of ways they can help us. Perhaps, we are caregivers too, most of us at some point in our lives, in some fashion.

Most of the authors are unknown to me except for a few like Caroline Yoachim and Juliet Marilier. I'll be sure looking forward to these new authors in the future, as well as the editors. Great job, kudos!

Thank you for the publisher, Laksa Media, for the review copy.

rachelbuckley's review against another edition

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This book truly shows the sacrifices caretakers make each and every day. Through all of these stories, the central message of love and sacrifice is carried, which makes this a happy, impactful read. However, like most anthologies, some stories were better than others, and there was one story I couldn't even make it through because it bored me so much. My favorites, if anyone was curious, were "Mother Azalea's Sad Home for Forgotten Adults," and "Dreams as Fragile as Glass." I feel like an older audience or those who have experienced being a caretaker for themselves would enjoy this more than I did, but overall I did have a good reading experience with this book and I would possibly read it again if I had a hard copy.

PS: That cover though <3

vortacist's review

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adventurous challenging mysterious fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? N/A
  • Strong character development? N/A
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? N/A


candidceillie's review against another edition

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This was a beautiful, heartbreaking anthology.

The Sum of Us is a collection of stories about caregivers in all the universes in our imaginations. Some of these stories were very hard to read, but they were all beautiful. I think my favorite story was “Number One Draft Pick” by Claire Humphrey. The stories flowed really well together, in my opinion. I think there will be something sad and stunning in this collection for any science fiction or fantasy reader.

thoughtsonbooks's review

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This was such a constistently good short story anthology. I have been struggling with anthologies recently so much that I started to consider not reading any anymore. This one, however, was really mostly good. I struggle with reviewing anthologies in general and while I thought this was really worthwhile, there were no stories that became new favourites and that I want to gush about.

The collection of speculative works looks at the concept of caregivers from many different angles; some of which I just adored. I loved the idea of a retirement home for former super villains and their henchmen (and henchwomen) and thought this story was executed wonderfully (The Dunschemin Retirement Home For Repentant Supervillains by Ian Creasey). Bottleneck by A. Am. Dellamonica was action-packed and interesting enough that I would love a whole book set in this world.

As always, there were some stories that did not quite work for me – I mean what is it with stories set in societies that closely resemble beehives? There were two of those here and while the first one did in fact prove to be charming after a while (The Mother’s Keepers by Edward Willet), the second dragged and did not offer anything new I found (Am I Not A Proud Outlier? by Kate Story). Also, this is a premise I have no definitely have read enough of.

So overall, worthwhile but not groundbreaking. I even now struggle to recall most of the stories and I think this will prove to be even more the case in a few weeks time. But I enjoyed it while I read it, which sometimes is enough.

I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Laksa Media Groups in exchange for an honest review.

redrocketpanda's review

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The Sum of Us: Tales of the Bonded and Bound edited by Lucas K. Law and Susan Forester starts with a fairly simple premise. We are all caregivers. Whether we're parents, children, elderly or young, hospital staff, soldiers, siblings, personal assistants or even pets, we all care for someone in some capacity and are cared for by others.

Released on the 8th September 2017, The Sum of Us is a brilliant, dynamic and diverse speculative fiction anthology which brings caregivers to the front stage and allows us to not only experience the vast variety of voices, experiences and stories of carers but does so in such a way which encourages us to reimagine care work and caregivers. Who are caregivers? What does it mean to care? How gendered, age and species related is caregiving? How do we define quality of life? Who can care (robots, humans, animals, aliens)? Where does the caregiver end and the non-caregiver begin?

As someone who has both been a caregiver and a receiver of care, I know that it can be easy for caregivers to fade away into the background so I was delighted to come across this anthology which seeks to look beyond caregivers as peripheral ghosts to recognise their personhood, with all of its nuances, complexities and emotions. With 23 different short stories in it, the Sum of Us does a wonderful job of bringing together so many different experiences and stories of carers who are LGBT, elderly, children, spouses, people of colour, disabled, non-human species and more.

In an anthology with so many stories, of course, there were a handful that I didn't gel with (5 to be exact) but on the whole found it to be a really enjoyable anthology, something which surprised me as I really don't read much short fiction. Despite dealing with topics which can be quite heavy going, I found that placing such topics in a speculative fiction setting reframed these stories in a way which made them much lighter, easier to read and more accessible. It did take me awhile to get through everything but found myself constantly immersed in these witty, complicated and heart-warming worlds whenever I returned.

Interestingly, reading through reviews from other readers, many appear to favour the same stories over others and there were many stories which I loved which other didn't seem to like as much (or enough to mention). So included below is a short list of my favourite short stories and a little summary of each.

Mother Azalea's Home for Forgotten Adults by James Van Pelt - Takes place in a home for forgotten adults where the ill are cared for by robotic carers who "measure" their quality of life and make decisions to terminate their life when it drops below a certain level. This story though focuses on 15-year-old Rocky and the home director Brandt, as Brandt, through Rocky, learns to see the ill as individuals once again. It raises questions such as how do we measure quality of life? Should people who are suffering be euthanised by robots? Or, as in Rocky's case, should we make the most of every second they have left and make their last hours hours of joy?

The Gatekeeper by Juliet Marillier - Follows Tariq, a former medical engineer in Afghanistan who immigrated to Australia where he now works at a home for people with dementia, and his relationship with a cat he rescued, Hamza. Hamza is no ordinary cat though, but a servant of the goddess Bast, who calls Hamza to the side of dying people at the home to keep them company as they join Bast to depart from this life. However, Hamza's job is threatened when an administrator turns up who wants to get rid of him and Tariq must work to convince her to keep Hamza as a therapy cat. A beautifully written story which raises important questions about whether caregiving is restricted to humans or whether we can also think of animals as caregivers.

A Mother's Milk by Heather Osborne - This was one of my favourite stories and is about two aliens who are orbiting earth, Dathas and her partner Cennil. Dathas is the equivalent of an alien anthropologist who is learning about human culture through a representative from Earth and is in the process of getting permission to visit. However, Cennil has other ideas and decides to get himself pregnant, which will effectively rob Dathas of her chance as she will need to stay on board the ship in water to nurse the babies who cling to her body. Yet, her human friend raises an interesting suggestion, why can Cennil not care for the children? Is there a physiological difference that prevents him from doing so? A Mother's Milk cleverly challenges the belief that women always have to be the caregivers when there is no reason that men cannot do the same job.

Goodbye is That Time Between Now and Forever by Matt Moore - Another one I really enjoyed, 'Goodbye' follows an older trans woman, Catalina, who is accompanying her father on a tram from Barcelona to Boston, across a ruined world, where he seeks euthanasia. It explores the caregiving responsibilities of both a parent, who had to make a terrible decision in order to save his child's life, and the caregiving responsibilities of an adult who is required to make a joint decision to help their parent die.

Number One Draft Pick by Claire Humphrey - Is another well-written story which focuses on dog handler Reshma and medical assistance dog Zuzu as they begin to work with a new client, young hockey star Ty Arthur. A running theme throughout the entire book, 'Number One' demonstrates the reciprocal nature of caregiving. Reshma and Zuzu do not just change Ty's life, where he needs to adjust to having a severe health condition and a medical assistance dog, but also shows how Reshma's life changes through the people she looks after (in this instance, finding out a new love for hockey). Yet, drawing on the name of the book, 'Number One' reminds us that caregiving is not the total Sum of Us but that we are allowed to have lives, aspirations, and loves outside of the person we care for.

Other favourites included The Dunschemin Retirement Home for Repentent Supervillains by Ian Creasey, Gone Flying by Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, and Blinders by Tyril Keevil.

Hopefully, this review has peaked your interest in the Sum of Us, and if it has I would really encourage you to read it. A huge thank you to Laksa Media Groups for letting me read this through NetGalley.

The beauty of an anthology, something I have only just discovered, is being able to just pop in and out of new worlds at a pace which suits you, and allows you to forego any stories you don't enjoy whilst not detracting from the book as a whole. I'm very excited to follow some of the authors mentioned above, whose work I would love to read more of, as well as look into purchasing a copy of the Sum of Us and another anthology edited by Forester and Law 'Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdog and Outcasts' which looks at mental health through a similarly speculative lens.

utopiastateofmind's review

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I do not know what I was expecting, but this anthology is superb. It is not only powerful, it is touching, and imaginative. There's a wealth of genres, narratives, and phenomenal stories. Normally I have a list of ones I love and others I really didn't like, that's usually the nature of anthologies, but these were all great! I might be recommending this book to everyone this month!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.
full review:

luanam's review

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I entered this anthology of speculative short stories about caregiving with the intention of bookmarking the stories that stood out the most for me, as well as the ones I savored, these were the stories I intended to list and review here but this ended up being too unwieldy a task as there were just too many good stories from a variety of approaches and themes. Instead, and with the note that my selection means that some equally awesome stories remain unexplored but ready to be discovered, I am just going to highlight a few of the ones that struck me the most:

“The Gatekeeper” by Juliet Marillier - Those are not tears that are threatening to well up in my eyes as I travel to work on public transport, nope its just a sudden localised mist situation that is taking place behind my glasses and completely unrelated to this story of an Afghani refugee, his rescue cat, and connections they make not just with the residents of the care home but with each other and the deep interconnections of memory, loyalty and fear when the safety they have found and the security of home they have made is threatened.

"Mother Azalea' Sad Home for Forgotten Adults" by James Van Pelt - was another movingly good story. The 'Sad Home' part of the title is a bit misleading as I would classify the story as both more intriguing, in terms of ideas around its android home attendants, and more heartfelt, in its exploration of the relationship between the director of the home and its newest resident. The importance of bringing a human, empathetic element to medical care was very well done in a contrastive fashion that was not overblown.

"The Healers Touch" by Colleen Anderson - This one did a beautiful job of combining scifi exploration of the use of doctor directed nanos at a very hands on level to treat patients with a personal story of the doctor's own emotional journey in coming to terms with her own past traumas as her new role sees her confronted with those of her patients. Healing of self and others becomes intertwined in an important way. LGBT story.

"The Oracle and the Warlord" by Karina Sumner-Smith - This was one of the relatively few truly sad tales in the anthology, as the protagonist Andra watches her friend, and former lover, weaken and lose her self over time in service and payment to the dark waters in her role as the oracle. It is a role that ends up being vitally important to the well being of her world and the story becomes one of the sacrifices voluntarily made for the safety of others. LGBT story

"The Gardener" by Amanda Sun - Also ended up being another sad story but more of a bittersweet sadness. A meditation on missing someone, of remaining behind to carry on its duties, conveyed through perspective of an android who has obviously not picked up on essential human cues but has developed some of his own feelings no matter how foreign or androidly expressed.

"Orang Tua Adventure Home Academy" by Charlotte Ashley - This one was one of the fun, adventurous stories within the anthology and as the story progresses one of the main character comes to see how much vim and curiosity there is still left to her in last years as she finds a new life in new surroundings in a different culture. It also ended up being a very sweet story about two people separated by culture and generation coming to open up and appreciate each other.

"Goodbye is That Time Between Now and Forever" by Matt Moore - This one was a gracefully done snapshot taken at the end of a terminally ill father's life as he and his daughter, who acts as his guardian/carer, travel back to their homeland, America, where he is 'volunteering' to end his life and undergo what is known the transformation at the barricade that separates the walled off America from the rest of the world. In the flashbacks we see how America had undergone a viral plague, where the infected turned violently against each other and in escaping death Catalina and her father made it out to Barcelona but at the cost that Catalina's father had to make a split second choice to save Catalina or risk picking up her sister and mother. We also see how Catalina grows up, transitions MtF and finds a place of home in Barcelona but how her father never quite is able to let go of his old home. We see the journey of the parent as caregiver, to the child who grows to become their parent's caregiver and we see the bonds of love and connections between them - even over the points of their differences. LGBT story

"Gone Flying" by Liz Westbrook-Trenholm - This was definitely one of the outstanding stories in the collection for me, with its final sentences resonating after the tale was done. It was one of only a couple of the stories where I just took a moment to let it rest before moving on to the next. The journey of Nanee as in her old age, in a post apocalyptic world, in a war ravaged body, she strives to raise her babies, her clones, as illness combined with lack of resources contrive against this. But though the story starts as one of despair it turns into one of hope and fruition and of ingenuity and most of all of love.

The last story here "Dreams as Fragile as Glass" by Caroline M. Yoachim was one of the shortest but no less resonant for that. It was a story of being parents to a child with a hereditary, terminal illness - in this case given the sheen of an almost fairy tale form - the guilt that comes with that but also the courage to allow the child fly while they can. To find joy in pleasures even if those pleasures may be dangerous in a manner exacerbated by their illness. This ended up being a brief, beautiful and fluid story that was complete within itself.

heyjaycee's review

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The Sum of Us, released September 8th, 2017, is an anthology of 23 short stories around the theme of carers and caregiving, edited by Canadian editors Lucas K. Law and Susan Forest. As someone who has spent significant parts of their life caring for loved ones to one degree or another as well as being cared for, I wasn’t sure how this collection was going to hit me. This is an emotional deep dive, bringing to the surface complex experiences and feelings around the nature of caring for others.

The collection starts you off chilled with ‘The Dunschemin Retirement Home for Repentant Supervillains’, a tongue-in-cheek story by Ian Creasey about a nursing home for elderly supervillains who are supposed to have given up their evil ways. Inside lives Anarcho, who’s not quite done with supervillainy despite his diminished ability, and his henchman Stafford, on whom Anarcho relies for the enactment of his dastardly plans. It’s a funny little piece that nevertheless surfaces the importance of Stafford’s continued choice to remain with Anarcho.

A choice is crucial in Hayden Trenholm’s ‘The Burdens We Bear’. Syvian, an old monk of an ancient order, is the sole caretaker onboard a ship carrying thousands of cryogenically-frozen humans to a new planet. Syvian’s relationship with Michael, the antagonistic ship’s AI, is spiky, but as we realise the nature of the choice that Syvian must make to ensure the survival of his invaluable cargo, Michael too softens. Syvian makes his choice in the end, and though it’s self-sacrifice, it was a free one.

Maybe unsurprisingly, there are a number of stories in this anthology featuring a robot, AI, or otherwise constructed being whose primary function is to give care. Especially in the global north, professional care is a growing industry as populations skew older. The question is whether the human tendency to turn to constructs to take on this labour is altruistic (looking for the best way to do it) or motivated by reluctance to take on the work ourselves for whatever reason.

‘Mother Azalea’s Sad Home for Forgotten Adults’ by James Van Pelt features a nursing home in which ‘resident assistants’ (human-like robots) monitor patients’ quality of life via a complicated formula, euthanising them as soon as it falls below a certain value. This reads hella sinister, as would any story where the power to decide one’s own life or death is in hands other than our own, but I think the effect is amplified because it’s with non-human intelligence that the power lies. In Van Pelt’s story, Dave, a human doctor, shows Tad, a resident assistant, a new aspect to quality of life previously unconsidered in the robot’s formula. It depicts a future in which robots—symbolising purely logic-driven care—miss the nuances of humanity necessary to give good care.

A totally different story, Amanda Sun’s ‘The Gardener’ implicitly examines whether it can even be ethical to make the entire purpose of a being to care for things it has no stake in. This wonderfully sinister story pulls an old twist but a good one. A gardening android, like Tad, misses the significance of human behaviour, but for this robot the point is moot: it must choose on its own whether to continue its duties.

Sandra Kasturi’s ‘The Beautiful Gears of Dying’ moves away from ethics to blur the lines between human and construct and thereby between life and death. A little piece exposing a desire for the undying, unliving machinery under a robot’s synthetic skin over the very human, messy, painful process of gradual death.

Another important theme throughout the book is that of grief, whether for yourself or others, and what you do with it. For me, the most striking of these stories is ‘Good-bye is That Time Between Now and Forever’ by Matt Moore, in which a trans woman, Catalina, accompanies her elderly father from Barcelona to Boston on his final journey in a cataclysmically changed world. The tension that comes with our not seeing the full picture adds to the certainty of approaching horror; the horror in the end being not only what’s happened to North America but that of bereavement—and then, in the end, the horror is eased by the acceptance of it.

Another beautiful, though heartbreaking, story about loss is Karina Sumner-Smith’s ‘The Oracle and the Warlord’, in which a warlord comes to seek a prophecy of an oracle who, despite the love and care of her attendant, is almost at the end of her life. It’s not only about death but also about the grief for the stepped losses of long-term illness—loss of mobility, loss of energy, loss of the things by which a person defines themselves, is defined by other people, for which they are loved. It is also about how, in the wake of loss, the world rolls on despite everything.

On the flip side of grief, though, this collection also hums with joy—the joy of living and loving. In Liz Westbrook-Trenholm’s ‘Gone Flying’, a grizzled old woman spends her twilight years caring for her brood of baby clones, as mandated by whatever government remains after an apocalyptic cataclysm. It started out so intensely harrowing I had to put the book down and walk away for a few hours. But when I came back, I discovered a story so full of love, even woven inextricably with sorrow, and in the end, joy at the weary old persistence of life, that I’m still thinking about it days after finishing the whole book.

Stories like Claire Humphrey’s ‘Number One Draft Pick’ and Charlotte Ashley’s ‘Orang Tua Adventure Home Academy’ are full of light and life in the face of ill health and death. Something in these speaks to me so fundamentally—being ill or disabled and being a carer aren’t your be all and end all most of the time, they’re just a manner in which you navigate the world.

The last story in the collection is an ode to joy. In ‘Dreams As Fragile As Glass’ by Caroline M. Yoachim, Hikaru moves with her husband Tsutomu and her daughter Masumi from Japan to Hawai’i, and not long after the family discovers that Masumi is developing symptoms of a genetic disease that turns her gradually into colourful glass. But Masumi only wants to learn to surf.

And surf she does, both strong and fragile at the same time, beautiful as she shines in the sun. Her parents watch her from the sand, caught up in this moment they’ve enabled, when their daughter is alive and happy.

Alongside the stories I’ve mentioned are many more I haven’t, but that’s down to space constraints rather than deservedness. The Sum of Us is a whole world’s worth of windows on the experience of caregiving, from the familiar to the totally alien, encompassing the range of human (and non-human) emotion. As Susan Forest mentions in her afterword, there are none of us who don’t care in some way or another; humanity is defined by its cooperative nature, so in a way caring is the ultimate expression of human nature.

This anthology is the second book published as part of Laksa Media’s mission ‘Read for a Cause, Write for a Cause, Help a Cause’, and as such, a donation of CAN$1,000 goes to support mental health programmes upon publication, plus a further portion of the revenue from sales. The first collection was Strangers Among Us, which tackled mental health, and which I’m looking forward to going back and reading!

sarabook's review

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I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is a collection of short story based around the concept of care givers and the different types of carers found throughout society. Being fantasy fiction, the tales included range from robots to Gods and back again, and provides a unique perspective on the concept of care.

The tales in this, as would be expected in an anthology, were hit and miss for me. My favourite story was 'the gatekeeper' by Juliet Marillier. I loved the idea that cats, who are often perceived as aloof but all seeing, could be looking over us and protecting us - there in our final hours to give comfort and support. I'm a great believer that animals can help treat those in need - especially in illnesses such as dementia and depression. The story was great at exploring the roles of animals in a care setting, and debating if the human-animals relationship is essential to be well rounded individuals in life.

My other favourite story was 'Dreams as fragile as glass' by Caroline M. Yoachim. In this story, the author uses the concept of hereditary and congenital diseases in children to form an opinion about caregiving in those born with a disease that can effect their whole life, or act as a'ticking timebomb'. It covers the guilt seen in the parents of a girl, named Hikaru, who grows up knowing she will inherit the disability of literally turning into glass. We see Hikaru struggle with accepting her disability and trying to curb her desire to surf., as well as her mother's struggle to accept that she must let Hijaru live her life to the fullest.

The other stories, unfortunately, I was less interested in. Some of them were too short, and I couldn't really get a feel for the characters. I loved the concept for this collection of stories though, and think it's a brilliant idea in order to open up discussion about careers and caregiving.