A collection of sixteen short stories featuring post-apocalyptic and dystopian societies that expands greatly the modern incarnation of this popular young adult genre. In fact, the first known global warming apocalyptic fantasy , “The End of the World,” is included, translated from Eugene Mouton’s 1872 French-language original. Together with well-known scifi authors, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Phillip K. Dick, and Stephen King, and lesser know but equally awarded Greg Bear, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Harlan Ellison, these doomsday tales are highly original, thought-provoking, and reality-questioning.
For me, about half of these short stories are a solid 4 stars, and about a quarter are 5 star worthy. Although this compilation does a great job of highlighting different strengths of the genre, they all tend toward hypothetical scifi with a splash of horror, fantasy, or quirkiness. My favorites include—
The highly abstract pieces that challenge an everyday state of consciousness, including:
- Judgement Engine by Greg Bear, in which a collective electronic form of human consciousness known as the social=mind resurrects an ancient version of itself in an attempt to save the universe.
- The Pretence by Ramsey Campbell, in which the end of the world as predicted by a group of doomsday fanatics comes and goes, but a family man struggles to remember the details of his own life and what is most important to him.
The hyper-present narrator that draws you into a world for which you aren’t ready, including:
- The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. LeGuin, in which a philosophical question about exploitation and tragic trade-offs is presented in a uniquely confrontational critique of human nature.
- The End of the Whole Mess by Stephen King, in which a man races to type out the tension-filled story of his brothers’ failed experiment to rid the human race of violence before his mind succumbs.
The unanticipated surprise endings that necessitate re-evaluation of the entire story, including:
- The Pedestrian by Ray Bradbury, in which a man walks through a city at night. In ten years of walking, he has never seen another person.
- The Engineer and the Executioner by Brian M. Stableford, in which a robot and a scientist debate whether a new kind of life is a threat to the human race.
Recommended as a collection for fans of intriguing and eccentric scifi!
“You’re not holding your breath for the end of the world, then.”
“I can’t believe anybody is. It’s not as if this is the first that was supposed to happen. It’s meant to end a dozen times in this century alone.”
“Maybe it did.”