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This Way to the End Times: Classic Tales of the Apocalypse Paperback – October 31, 2016
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The Amazon Book Review
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"Twenty-one exceptional tales of Earth’s devastation and humans’ inventive, and often ironically self-destructive, ways of surviving . . . These stunning stories contemplate survival while question whether life is worth saving, and many have such rich ideas and settings that they could easily spark full-length novels." ―Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"Demands applause and attention. . . . An overstuffed tour of various doomsday scenarios, proving that version of Murphy’s Law that observes that there are more ways to screw something up than there are to make something right." ―Asimov's Science Fiction
"Whether it’s Jules Verne’s story detailing a young civilization uncovering a past apocalypse or Philip Latham’s tale of a scientist recording in detail the last days on Earth when no one else will listen, these stories form the incredible foundation of all the dystonian tales that dominate modern YA. This is a science fiction collection for the ages.” ―Tulsa Book Review
"See how writers such as Jules Verne and Connie Willis have embraced the apocalypse and used it to tell chillingly prescient narratives that reach across time and space. Silverberg reminds us that while the end of the world seems to be a hot trend today, it is actually only a blip in a long tradition of dystopian storytelling." ―Library Journal "With its range of contributors, this is a much needed volume that will both satisfy the high demand for apocalyptic tales and remind readers of the actual breadth and depth of this literature of the end of the world." ―ALA Booklist, Starred Review
"The variety of ways in which these stories choose to end the world offers a great dealnightmarish, funny, lonely, or hopefulfor the imagination. Wonderfully written, surprisingly varied apocalyptic tales." ―Kirkus Reviews
"Science fiction legend Robert Silverberg has picked the best of the very best stories for this volume. Absolute gold, from first word to last gasp!" ―Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Mars One and Kill Switch
Past praise for Robert Silverberg, editor:
"The John Updike of science fiction." ―The New York Times Book Review
"No matter if Silverberg is dealing with material that is practically straight fiction, or going way into the future . . . his is the hand of a master of his craft and imagination." ―Los Angeles Times
"Robert Silverberg is our best . . . Time and time again he has expanded the parameters of science fiction." ―The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
About the Author
Ursula K. Le Guin, contributor, is an American author of novels, children's books, and short storiHer work has often depicted futuristic or imaginary alternative worlds in politics, the natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality and ethnography.
Connie Willis, contributor, is an American science fiction/fantasy writer. She has won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awardsmore major award than any other writer. She was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and is a SFWA Grand Master. Her novels include Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog.
Megan Arkenberg, contributor, is an award-winning writer of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Her work has appeared in over fifty publications and in anthologies such as The Apocalypse Triptych, Heiresses of Russ, and The Best Horror of the Year. She lives in Davis, CA.
Brian W. Aldiss, contributor, is an English writer and anthologies editor, best known for his short story Super-Toys Last All Sumer Long,” the basis for the Stanley Kubrick-developed Steven Spielberg film A.I. Artificial Intelligence.” He has two Hugo Awards and one Nebula Award, and is a Sci-Fi Grand Master.
Top customer reviews
I've tried to keep out spoilers, but when I can't avoid them, I mark them in warning.
The Eternal Adam by Jules Verne 3.5 stars -One of Verne's last works, believed to be written in 1904. Verne scholars argue whether it was actually written entirely by Verne or in part by his son Michel, who completed/published several of Verne's other unfinished works. <spoiler alert> A doctor 20,000 years in the future has to come to terms with a new archeological discovery that proves that humanity has completely started from scratch at least twice, reached the height of technological advancement, and then been utterly destroyed by a natural cataclysmic event. Though perhaps a bit dry for modern readers, the philosophy underlying the piece is what's fascinating. Verne wants us to consider the fact that we could have already achieved the same level of technology we have today, and due to a shifting of the continents and the ocean floor, all evidence of this "Atlantis" like civilization has disappeared.
The Last Generation by James Elroy Flecker - 4 stars - 1908 - "I saw rims and sparks of spectral fire floating through the pane. Then I heard someone say, 'I am the wind.'" One man is granted by a capricious wind the ability to travel to the future, where he sees what happens when humans decide to sterilize themselves and end the species. The most interesting part of this story is the predictions about how we'd all act if there were plenty of food and resources for us to live without working, but knowing that once we died, that's it for humanity. The writing is poetic and transporting.
Finis by Frank Lillie Pollock 3 stars- 1906- The story has remained in print for more than a hundred years, a Sci Fi classic. A distant sun comes into our orbit and burns us up. Not very likely, but interesting to read. The story covers the last 24 hours of life on earth, in the scenario that we discover very late in the game, and are quickly burnt up. Written engagingly, but didn't do a lot for me personally.
The Coming of the Ice by G. Peyton Wertenbaker 3 stars -1926 - One man gains immortality in the early 1900s, and lives to the end of humanity which comes during an ice age. To gain immortality through a medical procedure, he had to give up emotional and personal attachment. Interesting, but after reading the other fantastic stories in the collection, this one didn't leave a huge impression on me.
N Day by Philip Latham 5 stars - Latham was a pen name for R.S. Richardson, who was an astronomer at several observatories throughout his career. The science is therefore convincing and fascinating -- one shut-in astronomer discovers that the sun is giving all the telltale signs of a supernova. Once he's sure of what he's seeing, the world really only has about 72 hours left. Of course, no one believes him, and he therefore experiences a sense of freedom and fuck-it that he's never had in his entire life. Loved the writing, the premise, and the protagonist.
Guyal of Sfere by Jack Vance - 5 stars - 1950 - This reads like a cross between Tolkien and Murakami. One man in the future embarks on a journey to the Museum of Man to satisfy his curiosity about the meaning of life. It's more of a prismatic fantasy journey than a science fiction story, and I LOVED it. Probably because I love Tolkien and Murakami and fantasy.
A Pail of Air by Fritz Leiber - 3.5 stars - 1951 - A lone family surviving in an ice age thinks they may have discovered someone else alive, but they're not sure who or what it is. Very atmospheric and well-written, the story's pace lagged a bit for me but was definitely one of the more memorable universes in this collection.
Who Can Replace a Man? by Brian Aldiss - 5 stars - 1958 - From the point of view of several machines after all men die. A blast to read, both tragic and comic. One of the joists of the comedy is the fact that each different machine has a different class brain, from 1-5, meaning that after men die the machines start to set up their own rogue bands based on their brain classes. The dialogue between the machines is hilarious.
Heresies of the Huge God by Brian Aldiss - 2 stars - 1966 - A big bug lands on earth, squishing much of it, and of course of a new religion crops up to worship it. The story details the history of the religion from the point of view of one of its adherents, and I just felt like I'd read several better "cult" stories.
The New Atlantis by Ursula K. Le Guin - 5 stars - 1975 - One of the best writers ever, Le Guin's story is completely absorbing, human, and transcendent. The story takes place in a dystopia created by a huge bureaucratic nanny state. The narrator's husband invents a solar cell that could potentially allow individuals to reclaim their own lives--what I loved were Le Guin's predictions, which so far are unequalled in the collection for their realistic probability, and of course her writing is just, so good. She's one of the few authors who can write a literary fiction/science fiction story that rivals the best stories of both genres.
When We Went to See the End of the World by Robert Silverberg - 5 stars - 1972 - Captures 1960s middle class ennui, swinging, excess. At a dinner party, several couples discover that they've all recently gone to see the end of the world via a new time-traveling technology. Each couple's experience is totally different. Meanwhile, the details of their everyday lives in the midst of an imploding society (earthquakes, cholera, mudslides, famine), makes the point that while they're all considering different potential apocalyptic scenarios, the world is already crumbling around them.
The Wind and the Rain by Robert Silverberg - 3 stars - 1973 - A cleanup crew is back on earth to undo all the damage that we caused to render it uninhabitable. Luckily, humans have managed to colonize other planets. The protagonist is obsessed with the wonderful irony of his forbearers, the destructive art they made of the world.
The Screwfly Solution by James Tiptree Jr (Alice Bradley) - 5 stars - 1977. Perhaps my favorite story in the whole collection. Comes very close to horror--a strange diseases is spreading among men who live at a certain latitude, and its causing them to link the aggressive and mating instincts such that they start killing all the women. Oo, shivers. So good. Alice Bradley, the author, is also an incredibly interesting character in her own right, and I really enjoyed the editorial introduction.
After Images by Malcolm Edwards - 4 stars - 1983 - One neighborhood in suburban England is affected by a timespace anomaly that temporarily shelters them from the nuclear blast occurring in London. Excellent writing and memorable story, though shorter than most of the others.
Daisy in the Sun by Connie Willis - 5 stars - 1979 - Such a beautifully wrought piece of art that unfolds at the perfect pace, revealing more and more of the mystery surrounding our teen protagonist Daisy--what exactly is happening to her, who the villain is, and how the apocalyptic element coincides with her adolescence. A story for other writers to study.
Three Days After by Karen Haber -4 stars - 2014 - Another story that makes you work to figure out what's going on. Short but beautiful, captures the internal chaos of a woman at the end of the world.
The Rain at the End of the World by Dale Bailey - 4 stars - 1999 - Death by deluge, the dissolution of a marriage in the midst of a flood that threatens to end the world. I've got to bookmark more of Dale Bailey's novels to read. It's the kind of writing that you can slip into and inhabit so easily. Lovely.
The End of the World as We Know It by Dale Bailey - 3 stars - 2004 - The show-off omniscient narrator bugged me in this one, but it was a great exploration of how an average man might act if everyone else on the earth suddenly died and he found himself to be the last person alive, with one exception. The narrator eschews all of the typical scenarios, and the conclusion is insightful.
Final Exam by Megan Arkenberg - 5 stars - 2012. Yes, it's written in the style of a multiple-choice exam, and no, it's not annoying at all. It's brilliant. Another story that combines personal conflict with global conflict, those always move me the most. Also, the writing is gorgeous and sharp.
Prayers to the Sun by a Dying Person by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro 3 stars-- This is my personal taste showing-- the story is evocative, well-written, and imaginative, but it will probably appeal to really die hard Sci Fi fans more than it did to me. It was a tad too out there for me--in the style of magical realism, the kind in which you're not sure exactly what's going on and it's never revealed, but everything is very deep. The basic premise is that a girl from the future comes back to the past to ask an old woman to help her save the universe.
Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon - 5 stars - 1930. I can't describe this story better than the editor can, but it was an excellent choice to close the collection. "A work of great poetic power. And the farther he gets from our own time, the more he astonishes us with his imaginative force."
The legendary Robert Silverberg introduces each story. The stories are ones that he has hand-picked and he details exactly why he chose them for the collection.
These stories covers a wide range of auhors. From classic science fiction to contemporary authors. This fascinating collection is well rounded and a joy to read. I love that he has chosen diverse authors for this collection.
I am a fan of the dystopian sci-fi genre, when it's nothing to do with zombies (they've been way, way overdone IMHO). In this collection, there are no zombies anywhere. What you do find is imaginative ideas into how the world will end. From, aliens, to our own fallibility, they're all in there. I enjoyed seeing how each authors view has changed throughout the years.
If you are fan of classic tales of sci-fi or more a fan of the contemporary dystopian genre, you'll enjoy this book. There's something here for everyone.
I received this book free from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
This collection covers the gamut from early, classic writers to recent contemporary authors. The end comes in incredible variety of ways, including the expected fire and ice scenarios, to willful extinction in many forms, to natural disasters, to "visitors" from beyond and more. The stories selected are all well written, most of them are exceptionally well written. Silverberg did a wonderful job in his selection of stories to include in this anthology. He opens the book with an introduction to the collection, where he points out: "Since apocalyptic visions are nearly universal in the religious literature of the world, and probably always have been, it’s not surprising that they should figure largely in the fantasies of imaginative storytellers." Then, before each story, he has an interesting and informative shorter introduction to the specific author and story.
There are many stories in this collection that I loved, but, incredibly, didn't have even one that I disliked. I'm giving credit to the care in which they were chosen as well as the talent of all the writers included. This is a great collection of superb stories!
INTRODUCTION by Robert Silverberg
THE ETERNAL ADAM by Jules Verne
THE LAST GENERATION by James Elroy Flecker
FINIS by Frank Lillie Pollock
THE COMING OF THE ICE by G. Peyton Wertenbaker
N DAY by Philip Latham
GUYAL OF SFERE by Jack Vance
A PAIL OF AIR by Fritz Leiber
WHO CAN REPLACE A MAN by Brian W. Aldiss
HERESIES OF THE HUGE GOD by Brian W. Aldiss
THE NEW ATLANTIS by Ursula K. Le Guin
WHEN WE WENT TO SEE THE END OF THE WORLD by Robert Silverberg
THE WIND AND THE RAIN by Robert Silverberg
THE SCREWFLY SOLUTION by James Tiptree, Jr.
AFTER-IMAGES by Malcolm Edwards
DAISY, IN THE SUN by Connie Willis
THREE DAYS AFTER by Karen Haber
THE RAIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD by Dale Bailey
THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT by Dale Bailey
FINAL EXAM by Megan Artenberg
PRAYERS TO THE SUN by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
LAST AND FIRST MEN by Olaf Stapledon
Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher/author.