The Sum of Us

Tales of the Bonded and Bound

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Pub Date Sep 08 2017 | Archive Date Nov 15 2017


SHORT DESCRIPTION:  Explore the depth and breadth of caring and of giving and delve into the world of caregivers--a segment of our population that is often taken for granted--with twenty-three original, thought-provoking and moving stories.


The world of caregivers and unsung heroes, the province of ghosts . . .

If we believe that we are the protagonists of our lives, then caregivers—our pillars—are ghosts, the bit players, the stock characters, the secondary supports, living lives of quiet trust and toil in the shadows. Summoned to us by the profound magic of great emotional, physical, or psychological need, they play their roles, and when our need diminishes . . .

The caregivers fade.

Who are THE SUM OF US?

Children giving care. Dogs and cats giving care. Sidekicks, military, monks, ghosts, robots. Even aliens. Care given by lovers, family, professionals. Caregivers who can no longer give. Caregivers who make the decision not to give. Bound to us by invisible bonds, but with lives, dreams, and passions of their own.

These are their stories: The Oracle and The Warlord, The Dunschemin Retirement Home for Repentant Supervillians, Good-bye is That Time between Now and Forever, Blinders, Am I Not a Proud Outlier?, Things that Creep and Bind, Dreams as Fragile as Glass, Number One Draft Pick, and many more.

Twenty-three science fiction and fantasy authors capture the depth and breadth of caring and of giving and delve into the world of caregivers--a segment of our population that is often taken for granted . They find insight, joy, devastation, and heroism in grand sweeps and in tiny niches. And, like wasps made of stinging words, there is pain in giving, and in working one’s way through to the light.

Our lives and relationships are complex. But in the end, there is hope, and there is love.

AUTHORS: Colleen Anderson, Charlotte Ashley, Brenda Cooper, Ian Creasey, A.M. Dellamonica, Bev Geddes, Claire Humphrey, Sandra Kasturi, Tyler Keevil, Juliet Marillier, Matt Moore, Heather Osborne, Nisi Shawl, Alex Shvartsman, Kate Story, Karina Sumner-Smith, Amanda Sun, Hayden Trenholm, James Van Pelt, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, Edward Willett, Christie Yant, Caroline M. Yoachim, Dominik Parisien (Introduction)

EDITORS: Susan Forest, Lucas K. Law

RECOMMENDED AGE: Mature Readers (ages 16 and up)

CATEGORY: Speculative Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy

FIC009040 FICTION / Fantasy / Collections & Anthologies
FIC028040 FICTION / Science Fiction / Collections & Anthologies
FIC061000 FICTION / Magical Realism

SHORT DESCRIPTION: Explore the depth and breadth of caring and of giving and delve into the world of caregivers--a segment of our population that is often taken for granted--with twenty-three...

A Note From the Publisher

Available in Hardcover (9781988140032) US$28.00 and EBook (9781988140001) US$7.99
• A donation of $1,000 CAD goes to the Canadian Mental Health
Association upon publication.
• A portion of the anthology’s net revenue goes to the Canadian Mental Health Association
• The first anthology in this “social causes” series is Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts. Recommended by Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, School Library Journal, Foreword Reviews, Locus, and Quill & Quire.

Available in Hardcover (9781988140032) US$28.00 and EBook (9781988140001) US$7.99
• A donation of $1,000 CAD goes to the Canadian Mental Health
Association upon publication.
• A portion of the...

Advance Praise

“This is overall a strong collection . . . make it worth reading.”   –Publishers Weekly

". . . if not for yourself, then for someone who is serving as a caretaker. Hopefully the stories can serve as comfort to them. At the very least, it should make us all appreciate caretakers for all they do."   --Lightspeed Magazine

“This is overall a strong collection . . . make it worth reading.”   –Publishers Weekly

". . . if not for yourself, then for someone who is serving as a caretaker. Hopefully the stories can serve as...

Marketing Plan

• Advance reading copies sent to print and online media, including Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews,
Library Journal, School Library Journal, and BookList
• NetGalley distribution
• Book display at BookExpo/BookCon America 2017 and American Library Association 2017 annual conference
• Book launches, author or editor appearances at select festivals and genre conventions
• Print and digital advertisements
• Pre-order campaign

• Advance reading copies sent to print and online media, including Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews,
Library Journal, School Library Journal, and BookList
• NetGalley distribution
• Book display at...

Average rating from 28 members

Featured Reviews

I started reading for Juliet Marillier...I kept reading because so many stories were too good to stop. I found many new authors to check out--every passage was well-written and I loved most of them!

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hank you Net Galley for the fee ARC.

I was surprised when I got this book that the stories were not all what I expected. I thought they were about standard caregiving - taking care of the sick and elderly. Then I realized , these were science fiction and fantasy writers and I had to expand my horizon to what caregiving really was. I really enjoyed the different aspects of the stories and the authors' views and am still thinking about some of the possible "worlds" that the the stories created a couple of weeks later.

Some great stories - dystopian to magical realism. You will enjoy.

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It's a book about 'care giving' written by various authors. I was expecting something along the lines of Chicken soup for the Soul but was taken with surprise. The first story is about retired super villains who are being taken care of by their hunch men. Almost every short story has a different genre ranging from fantasy, sci-fi, adult fiction, dystopia and so on. It is very unique book. I'd totally recommend it.

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strong work. enjoyable. will be recommending to readers across all genres.

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“The Sum of Us,” edited by Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law, is a very sci-fi heavy anthology focused on the theme of caregivers. That’s not to say it’s all science fiction. My favorite stories contained here fall into the fantasy spectrum: “the gatekeeper” by Juliet Marillier and “things that creep and bind” (what a glorious title!) by Christie Yant. The former, in my opinion, borders on magic realism. The anthology contains a wide range of worlds from a nursing home for supervillains to a spaceship carrying an alien couple who are considering landing on earth. Writing styles vary as much as settings vary. For example, Kate Story’s “am i not a proud outlier?” reads like poetry, despite being written in the form of a ship log, while Charlotte Ashley’s “orang tua” reads like a Peter Pan-esque fairy tale.

The most brilliant diversity of this anthology, though, is the staggering range of caregivers. A part of me expected a smattering of heroic nurses and mothers with romanticized experiences. Those roles are important in life, of course. It’s just that gushy repetitiveness is probably the most boring thing I could ever read. This anthology brings out the real over the romanticized and the strangely relatable over the repetitive. Some of these stories, such as “blinders” by Tyler Keevil and “sunshine of your love” by Nisi Shawl, dive right into the grittiness of existence. The former takes some time to explore how union-versus-company struggles can affect workers, while the latter examines the strange ways of genetics, sisterhood, attraction, and society.

I would recommend this anthology to nearly anyone, but particularly readers concerned with mental and physical health, with social issues, or with a general love for exploring writing styles. I think it would be a great addition to a classroom because it brings up so many important topics. As mentioned previously, the selection is diverse enough that there’s something in here for everyone. That said, it seems like one of those books that should be read at the right time. One reason for this is that it’s a very emotional anthology. If you read it all at once, like I did, you’re going to get one heck of a roller coaster. Where there’s a caregiver involved, there’s someone that needs care. Characters die or drift into dementia or senility. There’s more than one tearjerker in these pages. There’s also some warm fuzzy feelings that will make you appreciate everyone who has ever helped you (but not in a mushy way). If you’re looking to get in touch with your emotions, you’ve come to the right place.

Some final reasons to read this book have to do with its impact on the real world. Your dollar will be doing double, if not triple duty. First off, a portion of the net revenue goes to the Canadian Mental Health Association. Second, there’s a nifty index in the back of the book discussing and listing mental health, caregiver, and caregiving resources. The editors state (in multiple places) that they hope this can help get more discussion started. The afterword is also totally worth reading! So much so that I just used the word “totally.”

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It was hard for me personally to get into this. I guess I'm a fan of classic short stories, and that's a lot to live up to. Lots of good writers and interesting storylines. Great for advanced readers!

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These imaginative stories explored caregiving, a vital role that is often not appreciated enough, taking the reader on an engrossing journey of fantasy while providing insight about this work.

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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.

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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!

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3.5 stars

The Sum of Us is a new sci-fi/fantasy short story collection that brings together authors from all over the world. Each with their own unique voice, the stories all tie together in regards to the common theme- caregiving. Within each of us is a person who desires to be cared for as well as to offer care. For some it may be on a grander scale, such as a nurse or a police officer would feel. For others it's more simple and under the radar moments that we live for. Happy to care for and assist someone or something in need for no reason at all. It's this general theme of compassion and dedication that each of the stories in this anthology reflects on.

Personally I'm neither a huge fan of the sci-fi/fantasy genre nor of short stories. When I first came across this book though I knew I wanted to read it. In part because of the gorgeous, artsy cover and in part because the focus intrigued me. I'm glad I chose to go with my gut and take a chance here. Even with several of the stories doing little to nothing for me, more than not drew me in quickly and kept my attention to the last page. A few of my favorites include: Mother Azalea's Sad Home for Forgotten Adults, The Gift, The Healer's Touch, The Beautiful Gears of Dying, Blinders, and Dreams As Fragile As Glass.

Many thanks to the authors, publisher, and NetGalley for allowing me to review an advanced copy of this book. I think I must look for the others in this series.

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