From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This harrowing reprint anthology of 22 apocalyptic tales reflects the stresses of contemporary international politics, with more than half published since 2000. All depict unsettling societal, physical and psychological adaptations their authors postulate as necessary for survival after the end of the world. Keynoted by Stephen King's The End of the Whole Mess, the volume's common denominator is hubris: that tragic human proclivity for placing oneself at the center of the universe, and each story uniquely traces the results. Some highlight human hope, even optimism, like Orson Scott Card's Salvage and Tobias Buckell's Waiting for the Zephyr. Others, like James Van Pelt's The Last of the O-Forms and Nancy Kress's Inertia, treat identity by exploring mutation. Several, like Elizabeth Bear's And the Deep Blue Sea and Jack McDevitt's Never Despair, gauge the height of human striving, while others, like George R.R. Martin's Dark, Dark Were the Tunnels, Carol Emshwiller's Killers and M. Rickert's Bread and Bombs, plumb the depths of human prejudice, jealousy and fear. Beware of Paolo Bacigalupi's far-future The People of Sand and Slag, though; that one will break your heart. (Feb.)
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With this well-chosen set of postapocalyptic stories, editor Adams provides a bit of everything that is best about the trope, from bleak, empty worlds to beacons of hope in an otherwise awful situation. Only Jerry Oltion’s “Judgment Passed,” about what happens when a space expedition returns to an Earth to which Jesus has returned, and the rapture has come without them, is original to the collection. Stephen King’s bleak “The End of the Whole Mess” opens, John Langan’s much more recent “Episode Seven: Last Stand against the Pack in the Kingdom of the Purple Flowers” closes, and they are wildly different. Highlights in between include Octavia Butler’s “Speech Sounds,” in which civilization has ended because a disease has made most people unable to talk, read, or do any number of once-taken-for-granted things, and Elizabeth Bear’s “And the Deep Blue Sea,” a brilliant take on a world laid waste and a devil’s bargain that treads in Roger Zelazny’s manic footsteps. A well-chosen selection of well-crafted stories, offering something to please nearly every postapocalyptic palate. --Regina Schroeder