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After the Apocalypse [Kindle Edition]

Maureen F. McHugh
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The apocalypse was yesterday. These stories are today.

In her new collection, Story Prize finalist Maureen F. McHugh delves into the dark heart of contemporary life and life five minutes from now and how easy it is to mix up one with the other. Her stories are post-bird flu, in the middle of medical trials, wondering if our computers are smarter than us, wondering when our jobs are going to be outsourced overseas, wondering if we are who we say we are, and not sure what we'd do to survive the coming zombie plague.

Table of Contents

The Naturalist

Special Economics

Useless Things

The Lost Boy: A Reporter at Large

The Kingdom of the Blind

Going to France


The Effect of Centrifugal Forces

After the Apocalypse

Praise for Maureen F. McHugh:

"Gorgeously crafted stories."—Nancy Pearl, NPR

"Hauntingly beautiful."—Booklist

"Unpredictable and poetic work."—The Plain Dealer

“Poignant and sometimes heartwrenching.”—Publishers Weekly

Maureen F. McHugh has lived in New York; Shijiazhuang, China; Ohio; Austin, Texas; and now lives in Los Angeles, California. She is the author of a Story Prize finalist collection, Mothers & Other Monsters, and four novels, including Tiptree Award-winner China Mountain Zhang and New York Times editor's choice Nekropolis. McHugh has also worked on alternate reality games for Halo 2, The Watchmen, and Nine Inch Nails, among others.

Editorial Reviews


"Hugo-winner McHugh (Mothers & Other Monsters) puts a human face on global disaster in nine fierce, wry, stark, beautiful stories. . . . As McHugh's entirely ordinary characters begin to understand how their lives have been transformed by events far beyond their control, some shrink in horror while others are "matter of fact as a heart attack," but there is no suicidal drama, and the overall effect is optimistic: we may wreck our planet, our economies, and our bodies, but every apocalypse will have an "after" in which people find their own peculiar ways of getting by."
Publishers Weekly (*starred review*)

"Like George Saunders (CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, 1996), McHugh displays an uncanny ability to hook into our prevailing end-of-the-world paranoia and feed it back to us in refreshingly original and frequently funny stories. In these nine apocalyptic tales, people facing catastrophes, from a zombie plague to a fatal illness contracted from eating chicken nuggets, do their best to cope. In “Useless Things,” perhaps the most affecting story in the collection, a resourceful sculptor, worried about drought and money in a time of high unemployment and increasing lawlessness, turns her exquisite crafstmanship to fashioning sex toys and selling them on the Internet with the hope of making enough money to pay her property taxes. In “Honeymoon,” a participant in a medical trial that goes horribly wrong watches in horror as six men are hospitalzed in critical condition; she uses her payment to take a vacation because, when all was said and done, she “wanted to dance. It didn’t seem like a bad choice.” That survival instinct is what makes McHugh’s collection a surprisingly sunny read in spite of the global disasters that threaten at every turn. An imaginative homage to the human ability to endure."
Booklist (*starred review*)

"All our worst dystopian fears are realized in this grim collection."
Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Maureen F. McHugh: Maureen F. McHugh has lived in NYC, Shijiazhuang, China, Ohio, Austin, Texas, and now lives in Los Angeles. She is the author of a collection, Mothers & Other Monsters (Story Prize finalist), and four novels, including China Mountain Zhang (Tiptree Award winner) and Nekropolis (a New York Times Editor’s Choice). McHugh has also worked on alternate reality games for Halo 2, The Watchmen, and Nine Inch Nails, among others.

Product Details

  • File Size: 305 KB
  • Print Length: 201 pages
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005T17MEM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #434,554 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the end December 1, 2011
This collection of stories is labeled After the Apocalypse. It is really not what most would expect; for the most part it deals with individual disaster. There are 9 stories.
One does deal with zombies, but they seem to be under control, another about a young girl in China trying to get a job after a bird flu plague, a lady living out west during economic hard times, a young boy with amnesia after a dirty bomb goes off, computer problems, people flying to France(literally), a medical test gone wrong, one with a mother who has contracted disease and the last what most would expect - a mother and her child trying to get to Canada after the breakdown of society.

The reoccurring theme seems to be a scarcity of power. People are existing, living and getting by no matter what. For most it is a mundane tale of an aftermath of an event that had the power to change lives. For many one can see no moral to the story and sometime no hope - just existence.
If you are hoping for huge catastrophic worldwide descriptions of an apocalypse this is not the book for you. It is more of a literary style of stories of existence.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books of 2011, hands down November 9, 2011
I get e-mails from time to time offering me electronic copies of small press titles for review. I usually say yes, with the caveat that I may never actually read it or get past the first chapter. Most of them aren't my cup of tea. Once in a while though there's a real home run. After the Apocalypse, a collection of short stories by Maureen F. McHugh, is a home run.

I'd never heard of McHugh prior to receiving an e-mail about her collection (which is my fault). It turns out she's published four novels and over twenty short stories. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang, was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award. In 1996 she won a Hugo Award for her short story The Lincoln Train. After reading this collection, none of that surprises me. Many of the stories in this collection are "award worthy" - especially the three new ones that are published here for the first time.

As the title implies, all of the stories in this collection deal with what comes after the apocalypse. Notice that's a lower case apocalypse. While some of the stories delve into the aftermath of the "big-one", some are more about a personal cataclysm. All of them are told from a very tight point of view in a consistently haunting prose. McHugh's characters are all real people, with real problems, who lived before she opened the window into their story and will continue to live after it's closed. It's rare that I enjoy short fiction this much. It's even more rare when I'd put a 200 page short story collection against any novel I've read this year.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worlds that End With Both a Bang and a Whimper December 19, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Maureen McHugh is well known in science fiction circles, mainly in the circles that admire high quality, character centered scifi. Back in the 90s, she debuted with a hugely awesome novel-in-stories (before that term was conceived of) called China Mountain Zhang (read that book, too!). She went on to write a number of other novels, and one other collection (Mothers and Other Monsters, also recommended), and has been spending time writing Alternate Reality Games and is now writing film scripts. So the scifi short story world is always very eager to read when a story of hers appears. This collections revolves thematically around the idea of apocalypses, endings, both literal and metaphorical, both in the epic scifi sort of way, and in the ordinary individual's self-implosion sort of way. The stories range from zombie apocalypses to the loss of water or energy sort of apocalypses. And the last story--the title story--absolutely destroyed me. McHugh's characters are more real than any I've encountered in science fiction, and her plots are too real for comfort.

Cover comment: Fantastic design that makes the book look old and battered, but isn't in fact. Very cool.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings February 8, 2012
I'm not sure what to think of this collection. It was slight, a quick read, and it had certain charms to it. Some of the stories were quite weak, and as a whole the stories have a half-baked quality. In particular, I was almost personally insulted by "Going to France" - it seemed like the sort of writerly self-indulgence that one can impose upon ones MFA classmates, but expecting anyone to pay money to read such a thing requires a rather appalling degree of audacity. "The Kingdom of the Blind" was also a conceptual exercise masquerading as a story, and as such was tedious. But most of the stories were better than that.

The underlying "apocalypse" theme--apocalypses both personal and societal--works and it doesn't, like so much else about this collection. I like the title and I understand that it need not be applicable to all of the stories it encompasses, but on the other hand it does create a certain expectation. Furthermore, I don't think the enjoyable but lightweight zombie yarn that opens the book sets the right tone for what is for the most part a collection of modest character studies. "Special Economics," "The Kingdom of the Blind," and "Honeymoon" really have nothing to do with apocalypses. At the same time, there is something interesting about the exploration of intimate personal experiences in the wake of some sort of dramatic societal collapse, and I enjoyed that dimension of it.

I also appreciated the author's willingness to introduce protagonists who were difficult to like. Some may have found the title story protagonist to be a cheap shock, but I thought it worked. For certain people at least, all bets would be off in the scenario.

UPDATE: I felt I should add that at the meeting of my book group, about 20 people were in attendance and most strongly liked the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Uneven
After the Apocalypse: Stories, is an uneven collection, with some excellent, stand out stories, and others that fall flat. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Eric Maroney
3.0 out of 5 stars Eh. Inoffensively Bland. Good for Reading on the Toilet
I found this book to be neither wonderful, definitely not deserving of the accolades listed on the product page, nor terrible. It's just ok. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Smaug
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring and Zero Closure
Very boring. Most of the stories just end in the middle. Do not expect any type of closure from most of the stories. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Salvatore Lazzaro
4.0 out of 5 stars In the best of the them
McHugh's stories are short, intense, gripping, interesting, and unexpected. They're profoundly disturbing, if only because their post-apocalyptic landscapes are so hauntingly... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Louis Slimak
3.0 out of 5 stars pretty good
A few of the stories have original ideas and all are well written. Some are a bit experimental, but overall I would recommend.
Published 13 months ago by Hieronymus
3.0 out of 5 stars eh
So if you're looking to read something and start to get really interested then turn the page and try to start another story then this is for you. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Ty
5.0 out of 5 stars Not written in the style of Harry Potter, Hunger Games, etc.
I read a lot of nonfiction and my forays into fiction.....what's happened? Has the success of Harry Potter meant that adult fiction has to be watered down to a kids level? Read more
Published 18 months ago by T. Ayer
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Disappointed
I read great reviews about this book, but quite frankly, I was a bit bored. The book features different stories about different zombie encounters. Read more
Published 19 months ago by KyleDKushner
4.0 out of 5 stars Great
Hard to review without giving anything away. This a very good read. I thik the "compilation" feel of it really fit
Published 23 months ago by Bigdog
5.0 out of 5 stars This is what excellent looks like
Everyone fears death. Oblivion. The end. That is one of the many reasons the apocalypse has so terrified and thrilled people since H.G. Wells wrote The War of the Worlds in 1898. Read more
Published on April 27, 2013 by Andrew Keyser
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More About the Author

Maureen F. McHugh has spent most of her life in Ohio, but has lived in New York City and, for a year, in Shijiazhuang, China. She is the author of four novels. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang, won the Tiptree Award and her latest novel, Nekropolis, was a Book Sense 76 pick and a New York Times Editor's Choice. McHugh is working on two novels, BabyGoth and Coming of Age in America. BabyGoth is a mother-daughter story: the Ya-Ya Sisterhood meets Alcoholics Anonymous. Coming of Age in America is a near future coming of age story -- and a romance. Chloe is a trailer park girl at a nice college. Derek is a rejuvenated 72-year-old returning student. McHugh teaches writing at the John Carroll University in Cleveland and at the Imagination and Clarion workshops. She and her husband and two dogs used to live next to a dairy farm. Sometimes, in the summer, black and white Holsteins looked over the fence at them. Now she lives in Austin, Texas.

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