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.

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