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No Tomorrow: Postcards from the End Paperback – January 12, 2013
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Very much a family affair, No Tomorrow: Postcards from the End showcases 22 short stories by three first-time writers: David Reed; his daughter, Alia; and son, Suleiman. After delving into their worlds of imagination, I am glad their work is seeing the light of day.
As David explains in the introduction, No Tomorrow: Postcards from the End had its genesis in a family discussion, perhaps inspired by the Mayan calendar hysteria of 2012. David, Alia,and Suleiman challenged each other to write seven stories apiece based on the theme of "no tomorrow" with a 2012 publication date in mind. The result is an amazing outpouring of creativity spanning three genres - contemporary fiction, fantasy, and science fiction.
Although this anthology is a family project, the stories were all produced separately - no shared bylines here - allowing us to discern each writer's distinct, individual styles. Alia and Suleiman are both very much of the Internet generation - and it shows in things like emoticons in Alia's "Just a Typical School Day" and an unsurprising tendency to make teenagers the leading characters - while David brings in an older perspective. Nevertheless, one of the most intriguing aspects of this collection, and one that is particularly impressive, is the way Alia and Suleiman are able to convincingly get into the heads of characters much older than themselves while David gets in touch with his inner teenager in "Snoopz," the anthology's final story.
The collection kicks off with several stories in the contemporary fiction genre. David's "No Tomorrow" is a tale of the reconciliation of a broken marriage during Earth's last hours before a meteor hits the Pacific Ocean, unleashing a worldwide cataclysm and near certain death. It has something of the haunting sadness of On the Beach, the classic 1959 film where Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck find love while radiation from a nuclear war is slowly wiping out all human life. The final paragraph, describing the literal end of the world as we know it, is a vision of incredible beauty.
David's "None Too Soon" is a chilling, claustrophobic tale set in a dark world where the main character slowly realizes he is trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building. At times, the descriptions are enough to make you cringe, which is exactly how it should be in such a tale.
Suleiman's "Splinter," like many other stories in this collection, is an intriguing window into a fictional world that almost begs to be expanded into a longer work. Here is the story of a young child who finds herself alone, abandoned by her parents in a hostile world that seems to have been affected by some unnamed disaster. It's an effectively told tale, but one with much unexplored potential I hope Suleiman will expand upon in the future.
"Rapture" is David's own unique take on "Left Behind" and all those other Christian rapture stories without any of the dogma or preaching that tend to dominate that genre. In fact, the tale is not sectarian in any way, focusing not on Biblical prophecy, but on a deeply troubled woman who is among those who are left behind when the "good people" of the Earth - regardless of religious affiliation - disappear as in the twinkling of an eye. Like "Splinter," this story is another one with a lot of potential for expansion into a longer work.
The collection's fantasy stories kick off with a Suleiman work - "Relic" - that takes us straight into a Tolkien-like world of orcs and a fascinating character named Stalker who is hideous of face and form, has telepathic powers, and may or may not be evil. Another story of a fictional universe we want to learn more about. Please, Suleiman, expand it.
Alia's "Diablos" is an intriguing mix of some very disparate elements - Spaniards, dryads, and demons. While this well executed story is self-contained, its universe where Spanish conquistadors and Catholic nuns coexist with creatures of mythology is so interesting that I really find myself wanting to learn much more about it, hopefully in some longer work Alia will write in the future.
"Thank You, God," also by Alia, is also a window into a complex fantasy world with an incredibly imaginative scene of human sacrifice. Like "Diablos" the story is also self-contained and complete, but its fictional world is a strong candidate for expansion into a longer work. Ditto for Alia's "Together in Death" - another well-told tale set in a fictional world I'd like to know more about.
Full of poetic beauty, David's "The Unicorn Awaits" is a unique take on the unicorn as a creature that can change her form into that of a beautiful woman. His "A Change of Heart" and "Wicked Wind" are both set in a fictional world called Wuldostrond. "A Change of Heart" offers an exciting narrative, full of battles, although I think it might have been stronger with more character development. "Wicked Wind," however, works on every possible level, following its main character on his road to redemption in a world divided by light-skinned Skald and dark-skinned Swalli. Fascinating stuff.
David, Alia, and Suleiman's science fiction tales are never anything less than interesting. Suleiman's "The Footnote" is an extremely good war narrative with a twist that reminds me of the 1962 Western film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, where a false hero gets all the glory for the actions a truly brave man. Suleiman also hits the ball out of the park with another war story, "Frying Pan," where an empath must fight against his caring nature in order to kill and survive in a combat zone.
Also a war narrative, Alia's "Saved by the Bunny" turns into a tense tale of zombie apocalypse. It has some great, clever lines, too, like "He remembers when he fell in love with her, after he pulled her hair in a martial arts class, and she broke his nose." The story's end, where its mood shifts from bloodcurdling terror to one of domestic tranquility is, however, somewhat anticlimactic.
Suleiman's "The Last Tree" is truly an end of the world story, as the Earth is blown to bits at the very beginning, leaving a tiny remnant of humanity on the Moon to cope with its aftermath. Full of intriguing concepts like children who are born on the Moon and grow to enormous heights due to lack of gravity; an artificial air bubble that surrounds the lunar colony, allowing humans to move around freely on the Moon's surface without spacesuits, much like humans did on the surface of Mars in Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles; and one tree preserved from the Earth that may prove to be humanity's salvation or its final destruction.
The collection closes with David's "Snoopz," a well-crafted, exciting tale where a group of teenage juvenile delinquents turn into heroes by saving a spaceship from takeover by a group of terrorists. For a collection of stories called "No Tomorrow," it ends on a surprisingly positive note.
I'm not sure what's next for the Reed family. There have been other writing families in the past - the Brontës immediately come to mind - who went on to accomplish great things. Any way you look at it, this is a strong debut from some writers who deserve to be read, and have a lot to offer. Hopefully, we'll hear a lot more from these talented writers in the future.
The title story, "No Tomorrow" is poignant and sweet--not at all what you might think the end of the world might be like, amongst the chaos and fear...and frenetic confusion. And the telling of that particular swan song is welcome, although you know all along what is to come from the first few lines.
At times ominous, at times inspiring, these tales allow us to wonder what all might transpire in that moment of clarity, when everything comes into focus, and we see our destiny before us. Or perhaps we are oblivious to it completely, assuaging the very real dangers of the present to instead battle the demons of the past. What situation is more dangerous, or rewarding, or determines the most sacrifice?
Favorite pieces: "No Tomorrow", "Just a Typical School Day", "None Too Soon", "Relic", "The Unicorn Awaits", "The Footnote", "Saved by the Bunny", and "Snoopz"
The eLit Gold Award winning "No Tomorrow - Postcards from the End" began as a dare, the result of a family conversation about the Mayan Calendar hysteria that predicted the end of the world in 2012. David Reed, his son Suleiman and daughter Alia challenged each other to write short stories that dealt with the idea of tomorrow, end times, or the thought that the world as we know it would end tomorrow. The book, a family project from start to finish, is the result of that challenge. Each story is a stand alone. Several could well serve as opening chapters for lengthier works of fiction. The talents of this not-so-ordinary family are noteworthy, to say the least. The dialogue in Alia’s “Just a Typical School Day” is sharp as a tack, giving the story immediacy. Suleiman’s fantasy “The Last Tree” raises the question of “what if” and leaves this reader begging for the story to be expanded. David Reed’s “None Too Soon” takes a chilling look inside a character’s head as he discovers he is horribly trapped. Genres include science fiction, mainstream fiction, fantasy and poetry. These writers will go far, no doubt about it.