REVIEW SUMMARY: A very good compendium of end-of-the-world stories.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Anthology of 22 post-apocalyptic stories.
PROS: 19 stories good or better stories, 6 of them excellent.
CONS: The Gene Wolfe story escapes my meager brain.
BOTTOM LINE: More entertaining than the average “Best of” annual anthology.
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse offers a great selection of end-of-the-world stories proving that stories in a single setting (or a single subgenre of science fiction) need not be similar. While the prevailing theme, as would be expected, is one of hope, the stories are presented with unique focus and voice. But the mood is as dark as it should be with such serious subject matter. With rare exception (Neal Barrett, Jr.’s comical “Ginny Sweethips’ Flying Circus”) these stories are gloomy indeed. But isn’t that the appeal of post-apocalyptic fiction after all?
John Joseph Adams has culled a great selection of stories here dating back to 1973, with more than half of those written in the last seven years. He also offers a super-handy index of post-apocalyptic stories and books for further reading, just in case you start jonesin’ for more.
Only three stories from the book’s roster of twenty-two failed to impress me. Perhaps the most glaring of those is the Gene Wolfe story, “Mute”, because Wolfe’s reputation is one of greatness and this story left me cold. But there were plenty of other stories to suit my tastes; a huge majority in fact. This is impressive since the variety of styles and stories that populate an anthology means there are bound to be some misses. But three out of twenty-two is a relatively low ratio when comparing it against my anthology consumption of years past. In then end, Wastelands proved to be more entertaining than the average yearly “Best of”.
Standout stories in this cant-miss volume include “The People of Sand and Slag” by Paolo Bacigalupi, “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth” by Cory Doctorow, “Judgment Passed” by Jerry Oltion, “Inertia” by Nancy Kress, “Speech Sounds” by Octavia E. Butler and “The End of the World as We Know It” by Dale Bailey.
Reviews of the individual stories follow…
Filed under: Book Review