In the last few pages of ‘The Toll’ we see our heroes, Citra and Rowan, leaving the earth and humanity’s crimes behind for a chance at a new life. But there were many questions unanswered and stories that went untold. Now Neal Shusterman has returned and brought back some of our favourite characters, characters we hate and characters we’ve never met to allow them to take to the stage once again in his new book Gleanings.
Gleanings is a collection of short stories written by Shusterman and some coauthored by Michael H. Payne (“Never Work with Animals”), David Yoon (“The Mortal Canvas”), Jarold Shusterman and Sofia Lapuente (“The Persistence of Memory”); and Michelle Knowlden (“Perchance to Glean”).
The stories are a non-linear exploration of the cogs in the machine of the larger world. Some of these cogs are important to the tale we’ve already been told, like ‘A Martian Minute,’ where we learn about the catastrophe that ended Thunderhead’s plans for space settlement and the Scythedom’s role in it. Others like ‘Never Work With Animals’ are perfect comedic relief and answer our more innocuous questions like “Do animals get to live forever too?”
Together like puzzle pieces, the stories come together to form a clearer picture of how and why we got to where we are now. In this fictional universe where people are beyond death, the government is a thing of the past, and a benevolent cloud manages our care; what does it mean to be a person? That’s what Gleanings sets out to answer; Neal Shusterman doing what he does best gives us a peak into the hearts and minds of humanity. As you go from page to page, you get a facet of the larger truth till you close the book, and all you’re left with is a fractal of all the lives and choices that went into this complex web of joy, jealousy, sadness and ecstasy.