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Best Tales of the Apocalypse Paperback – October 29, 2013
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Book 1 starts with Lee Moan's "The Man Who Ate Planets." A stranger claiming to be an ancient god of prophecy shows up in the a desert community and the people know the time of judgment is at hand. But what happens when the eater of worlds doesn't want to bring doom on the people he is destined to destroy. It's a fascinating story of human courage and divine will.
"Hurricane Watch" by Rebecca Day is a moody, enigmatic vision of a future America where the wealthy elite gather to witness the storm of all storms and the rising of the Kraken of legend. It's a fable about the helplessness of the powerful and the power of the helpless which packs packs a lot of emotional power in it's cryptic conclusion.
"Kelmscott Manor: In the Attics" is part historical novel and part dystopian future story. It begins with the life of 19th century artist and writer, William Morris and asks what kind of a future this compassionate and idealistic Socialist could have fathered if he'd lived longer and captured the world with his vision. with a little help from H.G. Wells' time machine, we get a glimpse of how even the noblest of visions can go horribly wrong. Though the story is epic in scope, Lyn C.A. Gardner's elegant prose makes it a personal and very poignant story.
"The All-Night, One-Stop Apocalypse Shop" by Derek Goodman is a humorous story of convenience store clerks trying to stave off the Apocalypse, again. I'm afraid I didn't like this one as well as most of the other stories. Goodman is a talented writer, but the premise didn't really grab me. Knowing these folks stop apocalypse after another all the time kind of killed the tension for me, plus the minions of evil are vampires and easy to kill vampires at that. I think this would be good fun for a lot of readers, but it wasn't my cup of end-of-the-world-tea.
"The Sixth Mission" features some very real-feeling disaster style action, which is probably a testament to the face that author Joe McKinney's other job is a homicide detective in San Antonio. This is the tale of what a group of firefighters accidentally found underneath a burning building years ago, and what happens years later as a result. It's a tense story highlighted by the fragility of the four protagonists, who are now old men.
Book 2 begins with a tale that shows that not all apocalypses are external. "Today is Not" by michael Sellars takes us inside the mind of a schizophrenic woman who knows that the world will be gloriously transformed into Glass, if only she can find the right fragments in her trash picking. Abby is a classic unreliable narrator as she spins her story and we can't tell what is reality and what is delusion. It's a horrifying story.
"America is Coming" by Dario Ciriello is the most bizarre and (IMO) the funniest story in the volume. Of all the ways for the world to end, I never would have imagined North America coming loose and slipping around the globe to ram inot the other continents willy-nilly. The story is told from the point of view of two Italian fishermen who want to stow away on Texas before it pulverizes their homeland.
I thought "Subtle Invasion" by David Conyers was the most chilling story in the book. It's the story of an ordinary husband and father who notices something subtly wrong behind his home. He doesn't know what it is or what to do about it, even when the problem grows to planet-threatening proportions. His reflections at the end of the story give us a hint of what might be happening but the story is mostly a wrenching picture of people helpless in the face of an unstoppable, incomprehensible end to everything they know.
"Restore from Backup" by J.F. Gonzales and Michael Oliveri is by far the longest story in the book and one that hits some of the same strange and unsettling themes of the movie "PI" from a few years back. Lyle is a computer programmer who gets an unbelievably good job offer at a particularly low moment in his life. As he begins to work at the company he starts to learn bizarre and unsettling secrets about his new employer and their mission. It's a great idea, but I found Lyle increasingly unsympathetic and, as the story continued, appallingly stupid. The story would have worked better for me with a smarter protagonist.
Book 3 begins with the wonderfully titled "Pigs and Feaches" by Patrice Sarath. The apocalypse of the story has to do with a plague of "Fast A" a deadly variation of Alzheimer's Disease. The story focuses on the painful question of whether the person you love is still "in there" as their brain is failing and how this affects people trying to survive the outbreak.
"Everything Gets Bigger After Nuclear War" by Ian Rogers is more post-apoctalyptic than apocalyptic but it's a satisfying adventure with a touching ending. Deek and his little sister, Autumn make a trek across the monster and bandit-infested landscape to find her a real "learning book." It's a hopeful story that sees some good surviving even after the world has been shattered.
"Betty in Sideshow" by Daniel R. Robichaud is similar in theme and tone. It takes place in a world where small, highly distinctive communities have sprung up in a post-apocalyptic world that feels like something the great Roger Zelazny might have created. When hard-fighting Betty from Chica-Town rescues her sister, Mara from the Smeegs, her escape route takes them into Sideshow, where the fearsome Mutts want them for the Meat-Pits. It's a fun and fast-moving story.
The final offering is "The Shape" by Tim Curran. This is another post-apocalyptic adventure set in a world much closer to our own. A small group of wanderers under the protection of a mysterious entity known as the Shape. It's a creepy story with an unexpected twist as the tough-guy leader realizes things are a lot uglier, and a lot different than he ever realized.
It's a strong group of stories nicely strung together, with a good blend of comedy, tragedy, absurdity and humanity. If the world was coming to an end, it's one I'd want in my bomb shelter.