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Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse Paperback – January 1, 2008

3.9 out of 5 stars 188 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Wastelands Series

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Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 331 pages
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books; Reprint edition (January 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597801054
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597801058
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joe Sherry on January 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
What is in a name? A title? Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse suggests that the anthology will cover stories directly dealing with various versions of the apocalypse, the end of the world. That is not quite what this Wastelands anthology is about, though. The original title Wastelands: Stories of Life After Apocalypse was a bit more apt in describing the content of this anthology. The stories collected here by editor John Joseph Adams are not about the apocalypse, but rather about life after apocalypse. The wastelands made of our world is not the primary point of any individual story, but rather the survival of the species told in small human stories. In that sense the majority of the stories here are filled with beauty and not just the desolation of the landscape.

What is most remarkable about Wastelands is just how varied stories about living after the destruction of civilization is. Take Octavia E. Butler's Hugo Award winning "Speech Sounds", a story where humanity has lost the power of speech and must find other ways to communicate and society has broken down. Telling the story from the perspective of a woman named Rye, Octavia Butler is able to really give the reader a sense of the terror a woman may feel in such a situation and the emptiness of that life, of the snap anger and body language required to get by, and the barest hint of hope. "Speech Sounds" has been anthologized before, but is a truly outstanding story.

The range of stories collected in Wastelands runs the gamut from "Bread and Bombs" by M. Rickert, a post 9/11 story with kids feeling the fear of their parents, to the future history of "Dark, Dark Are the Tunnels" by George R. R.
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Format: Paperback
A collection of apocalyptic stories this is not, rather it is a collection of post-apocalyptic stories during a time when this is all the rage among readers of fiction, (thank you very much Cormac McCarthy). As a science fiction reader, I have read a number of post-apocalyptic novels in my time (Ballard's The Drought, Stewart's Earth Abides, Wyndham's Day of the Triffids, Frank's Alas Babylon and hearty handful of others). So, the material is nothing new to me but I haven't been exposed to the short story side of the sub-genre. Much like all other collections about plot specific stories, the stories are hit and miss.

If the reader is looking for entertaining ways in which humans will perish from the planet, this really isn't it. If the reader is looking for ways in which humans cope with the aftermath of mass tragedy, this book really isn't all that either. But like a good collection of stories, it DOES have the entertaining bits, the humanistic bits and also the humor of human folly.

The End of the Whole Mess (Stephen King) - 5/5 - Elder brother to a genius writes his parting words before he succumbs to the disease unknowingly beset by his brother with only the best intention at heart: to save the world. 19 pages

Salvage (Orson Scott Card) - 3/5 - Mormons assist a salvager in probing the temple for the legendary promise of golden riches, as the salvager was told by other reliable truckers along the highway stretch. 15 pages

The People of Sand and Slag (Paola Bacigalupi)- 5/5 - Heavily modified truly omnivorous humans in an animal-less world discover a dog amidst their chemical wasteland and adopt it as their own after debating on whether or not to just eat the nuisance. 15 pages

Bread and Bombs (M.
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Format: Paperback
I know if your like me you view "theme" books with a bit of skepticism. Assembling a collection of any size with only one "type" of story can be daunting. I have often found many of these types of books containing one or a few really top notch stories and the rest relegated to filler. Collections like Ellison's Dangerous Visions is a shining example of how to do it right. Is Wastelands in that league? Not quite, but DAMN close. The stories are not as "dangerous" as DV and it's no where near the size of DVs. However, don't take me wrong, the tales in Wastelands are the crème de la crème of this genre and for that matter science fiction as a whole. Often the editors choice of covers is their attempt to put their best foot forward, so by looking at just the cover of Wastelands, one might suspect that the author is attempting to snare you on name recognition alone. Believe me, this is not the case. Yes, notable names all, however the tales between those names are every bit as strong. A good example is one of my favorites in this book and appearances elsewhere - The People of Sand and Slag, by Paolo Bacigalupi, or better called a boy and his dog and an appetizer. An absolutely stunning story of the far future and an equal to any of the "names" on the front. The whole book is like this. One retina blasting mind numbing yarn after another. King's story alone is worth the price of the book. (a kind of sideways retelling of Flowers for Algernon) The only suggestion is that you read each story straight through and put the book down and walk away for a time. Each story deserves to be considered on it's own merit.Read more ›
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