December 31, 2021

Review: Vital: the Future of Healthcare

I received a sneak preview of this book due to being one of its Kickstarter backers, but I also wanted to post a review to encourage people to read it. Kickstarter is ideal for small projects like this that likely would never be picked up by a Big 5 publisher, because it probably wouldn't be looked upon as being able to make a sufficient profit. Don't let the fact that this is a niche product turn you off. This is far more relevant to the world today than I'm sure the editor had ever imagined. 

Out of fourteen stories, only two were written this year: Justin C. Key's "The Algorithm Will See You Now" and the chilling tale that closes the book and also namechecks Covid, Seanan McGuire's "Treatment Plan." Some of the stories are decades old, including David Brin's "The Giving Plague," written at the height of the AIDS crisis. Sally Wiener Grotta's "One Widow's Healing" saw the light of day a year before Covid-19, but the main character that "hasn't left their one-bedroom apartment in nearly thirteen years" speaks in stark terms to what is happening now. 

Anthologies can be variable in quality, of course. There's only one story out of this bunch I didn't care for (I'm not going to say which one). The rest of the stories ably carry the day, especially Annalee Newitz's "When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis" and "Treatment Plan." In fact, I would go so far to say that "Treatment Plan" is worth the price of admission all on its own, with its horrifyingly logical extrapolation of what the American healthcare system, built to "prioritize the rich while punishing the impoverished," would do when confronted with a never-ending pandemic crisis. This is not a comforting story by any means, and I'm sure the author didn't intend it to be. It is a story worth thinking about and considering how easily anyone can be cast in the role of the "other," and how society can be so readily manipulated in their treatment of them. 

In any case, I wanted to shine a little more light on this anthology than it's probably going to get. The profits from the sale of this book are earmarked for the World Health Organization's Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, which makes this book a worthy recipient of your money, even before you get to the excellent stories contained therein. It was worth my support, and I think it will be worth yours. 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

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