I’ve mentioned here before how much I enjoy the End Of The World As We Know It (EOTWAWKI) branch of science fiction. I’ve talked about Alas, Babylon and the TV shows “Jericho” and “The Walking Dead.” Love the movies “Testament,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “World War Z,” “Contagion,” “Outbreak” to name a few.
BIG fan of the genre.
So last week John Joseph Adams let me know about the exciting new trilogy of anthologies he’s edited with Hugh Howey – THE APOCALYPSE TRIPTYCH, of which two volumes – THE END IS NIGH and THE END IS NOW – have been issued. I read straight through both books and I am here to tell you this is a LOT of apocalypse goodness. The idea for the trilogy is that for the most part the same authors will be writing stories for each anthology, describing their apocalypse from the time right before the Big Bad happens, during the events, and then the aftermath. These books have everything from your basic nuclear war and killer flu to aliens to comets, volcanoes, brown stars and advanced nanotechnology. There’s even one that will make you very afraid of bread mold. Very. Afraid.
Reading so much disaster and death over just a few days was a bit overwhelming. I probably should have paced myself but the stories were so good. I also couldn’t resist reading THE END IS NOW right away to see how things were turning out from the first installments in THE END IS NIGH. Some of the authors pick up the action in the second story literally right after the first story ends. Others tell the second portion of their apocalypse from the POV of someone else who was mentioned in the first story or who could have been in the same vicinity. And a couple of the stories are standalone (for now anyway, don’t know what will be in the third and final book). There were some twists I didn’t see coming (no spoilers from me), which kept the reading fresh.
I didn’t fall in love with every single story but that’s the beauty of an anthology – much to choose from.
Some of the stories which stand out in my memory, in no particular order:
Goodnight Moon and Goodnight Stars by Annie Bellet. Absolutely heart tugging.
Spores and Fruiting Bodies by Seanan McGuire. There shall be no bread mold in my house. EVER. (Gets out the Lysol, starts scrubbing)
The Fifth Day of Deer Camp and The Sixth Day of Deer Camp by Scott Sigler. He gives the reader a twist that I never saw coming but loved. Can’t wait to see what transpires in the third installment, if there is one.
System Reset by Tobias S. Buckell. I loved the two main characters in this, Charlie and Toto (not a dog) and was eagerly anticipating more about them in the second book but alas, no.
In The Air and In The Mountain by Hugh Howey. SO good, with a twist and then another even darker twist…I wish this was a full length novel because I was totally drawn into the story and the characters. Can’t WAIT for part three.
Enjoy The Moment by Jack McDevitt. Seemed like a set up for a super, classic EOTWAWKI story but no second installment so far.
I have to mention This Unkempt World Is Falling to Pieces and By The Hair of the Moon by Jamie Ford. The author created a very noir, very cool alternate reality for May 1910 and the return of a certain comet that we know as Halley’s here, known as “the Tramp” there. The world building included steampunk elements woven into the stories and although these two connected tales weren’t among my top favorites, they stay with me. (I’m not usually much for noir but the setting tugged me in anyway.)
There were many other stories included in the two books, including a pair by Charlie Jane Anders that took aspects of current social media and Generation Z and extrapolated into a chilling but highly believable future….YMMV as to which ones really grab you and won’t let go. For me, apparently the bread mold is THE winner LOL. (It is a scary scary pair of stories.)
Another excellent aspect of these anthologies is the diversity of the characters in meaningful roles, which I very much appreciated. Tananrive Due’s heroine Nayima in Removal Order and Herd Immunity is one outstanding example, and Jake Kerr’s couple Em and Lynn in The Wedding are another.
So if you never get enough of reading apocalyptic tales with strong characters of all types, I recommend checking out the two anthologies. Me? I’m waiting with bated breath for the third one!
Here’s a cast photo from the gone-but-not-forgotten “Jericho,” which I loved and which SO reminded me of Alas, Babylon in the early episodes.