Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CBRIII Book 14: Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse edited by John Joseph Adams

As I was flipping through the book advertisements at the back of the last book in my CBR, the Brave New Worlds anthology, I found an ad for a book of apocalyptic fiction also edited by Adams. Naturally, I had to check it out. In Brave New Worlds, Adams demonstrated a knack for picking engrossing short stories, and in Wastelands, he didn't disappoint.

There were several stories that I thought stood out above the others. "The People of Sand and Slag" by Paulo Bacigalupi describes a future in which people have been bioengineered to the point of almost immortality. A group of mercenaries come across a dog, a species thought to be extinct, and try to figure out what to do with it. The story was rather moving, and made me wonder, if pain could be eliminated from our lives, would love and compassion go with it?

Another story that I loved was Jerry Oltion's "Judgement Passed." A group of astronauts returns to Earth to discover that the Rapture has occurred without them. They're left to wonder if they're better off in their newly emptied world or if perhaps God will come back for them... but one of them doesn't want to sit around and wait.

Dave Bailey's "The End of the World as We Know It" puts the phrase in a different context - it gives a look at how one specific individual's world comes to an end due to a personal tragedy... that happens during the apocalypse. It's incredibly touching, and I won't deny that it moved me to tears.

The anthology also included several stories I'd already read, like Cory Doctorow's "When Sysadmins Ruled the World," which I hated the first time I read it, and Octavia Butler's "Speech Sounds," which is one of my favorite short stories of all time from my favorite author. And, of course, there were a few stories I didn't really enjoy, like Gene Wolfe's "Mute," which is supposed to benefit from repeat readings, but I had to scour the internet for clues as to the meaning of the story.

It appears that Adams has several other anthologies out there, like one devoted entirely to zombie stories. I'll definitely have to look for that one, and I recommend this one as well as the previous anthology to anyone interested in some wonderful short stories.

Monday, June 6, 2011

CBRIII Book 13: Brave New Worlds edited by John Joseph Adams

John Joseph Adams is a man after my own heart. He has pulled together an anthology of dystopian literature titled "Brave New Worlds" that spans the genre from one of the earliest (and best known) stories, Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," to recent works by authors like Paolo Bacigalupi and Genevieve Valentine. What caught my eye, besides the title that evokes my favorite novel, was the list of authors on the cover: Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. Le Guin, and so on - a veritable cornucopia of talent!

It's a huge book, with 34 stories that explore all sorts of different futures and worlds. Of course, some are better than others. I couldn't put down "Auspicious Eggs," by James Morrow, which envisions a future where reproduction is the law. S. L. Gilbow's "Red Card" is a clever little story about what happens when society gives a few select individuals a license to kill. And "Pervert" by Charles Coleman Finlay flips our society's obsession with sexuality and ponders a future in which heterosexuality is seen as a perversion.

There are a few stories that I didn't care for, like Kim Stanley Robinson's "The Lunatics," which just sort of droned on and on for what seemed like ages. But for the most part, this anthology is packed with fantastic stories with themes that range from religion to sexuality to how technology is shaping our lives - and the lives of those to come. It even includes such classics as Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" and Philip K. Dick's "The Minority Report."

I think that this book is an excellent choice for summer reading. The short story format is perfect for a day at the beach, or catching a chapter or two between cat naps in your hammock in your backyard. Some stories are only 2 or 3 pages long, so you can read an entire story and still get to enjoy the rest of your vacation. One thing's for certain for me - I will definitely be adding this collection to my library. Adams has done a wonderful job of collecting some amazing fiction in this anthology.