Blog post

“Authors at the top of their game, tackling the most pressing issue of our generation” – I’m With the Bears reviewed

Kishani Widyaratna 4 November 2011

I'm With the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet, in which world-class novelists envision the terrors of impending climate change, has been widely reviewed in the press. The contributors to the volume, such as Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell, aim to shape an emotional response to mankind's unwitting creation of a tough new planet. While issue based fiction will by its very nature divide opinion, the collection has received a largely positive response. The New Internationalist summed up their review with a resounding endorsement: "10 authors at the top of their game, tackling the most pressing issue of our generation".

Michael Marshall, reviewing for the New Scientist, had mixed feelings about the anthology, appreciating some contributions more than others as he felt was inevitable when reading a collection. He praised the writing of Mitchell and Helen Simpson but saved highest commendation for Paolo Bacigalupi:

Short story collections are always a mixed bag, and this set of 10 pieces inspired by global warming is no different...The high point for me was Paolo Bacigalupi's The Tamarisk Hunter, a near future story of a farmer struggling to make a living on a drought-ridden Colorado river, issues such as water rights, which can be rather (excuse the pun)dry, come to life because Bacigalupi makes them part of the plot and shows how they affect his characters...More than any other story in the collection, it makes climate change feel real.

Marshall concluded that:

We haven't yet had the definitive climate-change novel, but the strongest stories in I'm With the Bears do at least hint at what it might be like.

William Leith for the Evening Standard noted the "impassioned" introduction from Bill McKibben and captured the power of Simpson's vision in his description of her story:

There's a story by Helen Simpson, set in 2040, about what might happen if our worst nightmares come true. The Earth is barely habitable, and people turn nasty, while governments struggle even to communicate, let alone keep control.

 The choice of contributors and the ambition of the writing for I'm With the Bears was roundly commended. However, some reviewers felt that no matter how strong the merits of the project, devoting a whole anthology to a single issue was not without its drawbacks. Kate Saunders, writing for the Times appreciated the "distinguished" list of authors, noting that "all the writing in this volume is excellent", but also wondered whether "it's a bit of a symphony on one note". However, reviewed in the Metro, the stories in I'm With the Bears were described as "disconcerting" and ultimately powerful in impact:

 The line-up of mostly British and North American talent is impressive - TC Boyle, Toby Litt, David Mitchell - and while they sometimes bash you around the head with a blunt instrument (Nathaniel Rich), the best are fierce and fearless, including Helen Simpson's acerbic, apocalyptic Diary Of An Interesting Year.

Visit the Daily Mail and New Scientist to read the reviews in full.

To read the other reviews in full please see the Times from October 29th, the Metro from September 29th, the Evening Standard from October 20th and the New Internationalist from November 1st.

Filed under: reviews