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After the Apocalypse: Stories Paperback – November 8, 2011
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Publishers Weekly Top 10 Best of the Year
"Superb.... Against backdrops of sheer terror, Ms. McHugh's characters insist on investing themselves in flirtations, friendships and jobs. They keep their innocent curiosity for the world even as it falls to pieces."
Wall Street Journal
The stories in After the Apocalypse will catch many readers off-guard; they’re suspenseful, but they never quite go where you expect them to. The end of the world as we know it will never be the same again.”
The best stories in this mesmerizing collection from the L.A. writer are the ones that elude categorizationthe struggles of a troubled doll maker in Useless Things,” the fantasies of an impulsive man in Going to France.” It’s the ordinary and everyday that we should be afraid of, not the prospect of big explosions and world-ending catastrophes. This is a pro stretching a genre to its limitssubverting, inverting, perverting, disturbing.”
Los Angeles Magazine
McHugh brings a subtle grittiness to the end of days. There is no post-apocalyptic glamour in these post-apocalyptic tales.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
These nine stories take place in a world that has been ravaged by prion diseases and economic collapse, even as it enters a new age of artificial intelligence and green biotech. You won’t be able to forget the people you meet there.”
One of the best short story collections I’ve read in the last decade.”
Chris Moriarty, F&SF
McHugh’s approach to the apocalypse is oblique, a concern with the personal, the individual or family unit, rather than the devastation that surrounds them . [T]here are perhaps half a dozen stories that are as powerful as anything you are likely to read this year.”
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*)
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Cover comment: Fantastic design that makes the book look old and battered, but isn't in fact. Very cool.
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.
Fans of modern science fiction and elegant writing will like this book a lot. This Kindle edition is definitely worth the price. A couple of typos but nothing serious. The stories, and the book, are short. But they all grab you and stick with you. It's where and how they leave you off that I think needs improvement.
I usually enjoy short story collections; I enjoy allowing my imagination to complete the story. However, McHugh failed, in my opinion, to really provide much to fuel the reader's imagination. With the exception of the titular story, the last in the collection, I finished each story and said to myself, "OK, well no one can ever say that I didn't read that story." Even now, a few days after finishing the collection, I can only remember 2 of the stories; the rest are just forgettable little vignettes. The characters didn't make any kind of impression on me, nor did the stories ever really make me stop and ask myself any challenging questions.
If you're looking for something that's easy to read in little snippets, on the toilet for example, you have my blessing. If you're looking for a collection of stories that really examine the human condition after the apocalypse, look elsewhere.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My favorite stories were "The Naturalist" and "Kingdom of the Blind," which, ironically, share a theme.Published 1 month ago by Lindsay
Maureen F. McHugh’s After the Apocalypse contains nine stories about what happens to people after the world ends, but not always on the scale most people would expect from such a... Read morePublished 8 months ago by C. Elizondo
After the Apocalypse: Stories, is an uneven collection, with some excellent, stand out stories, and others that fall flat. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Eric Maroney
Very boring. Most of the stories just end in the middle. Do not expect any type of closure from most of the stories. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Salvatore Lazzaro
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 morePublished on July 5, 2014 by Louis Slimak
A few of the stories have original ideas and all are well written. Some are a bit experimental, but overall I would recommend.Published on May 5, 2014 by Hieronymus
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 morePublished on March 20, 2014 by Ty
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 morePublished on December 8, 2013 by T. Ayer
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 morePublished on October 30, 2013 by KyleDKushner