Read for the It's the End of the World Reading Challenge.
The title says everything you need to know about the subject matter of this short story collection. Every story is set after the world has ended. If that seems like a fairly limiting subject, you’re in for an interesting survey of how many different ways people can imagine that the human race will manage to off itself, as well as a surprising range of story tones. Who knew the apocalypse could be almost funny?
Stephen King’s “The End of the Whole Mess” starts off the book with an almost lighthearted look back from the man who helped his brother destroy humanity when he thought he was keeping us from killing ourselves. I enjoyed this story because the tone was so different than what I expect from King. (Granted, I’ve been told a number of different times I need to check out his short fiction, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. This story actually spurred me into putting his short story collections onto my Paperspine queue.)
I was actually excited to see a story from Cory Doctorow in this anthology. I’ve heard good things about his work, and was happy to get a chance to read one of his stories. “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth” was particularly enjoyable because it more or less captured my world of work, and was entirely plausible as something that could happen at my company.
“Speech Sounds” was a lovely story from Octavia Butler in a world where most people have lost the ability to speak, and those who still can speak must hide their ability or fear jealous retribution. On a similar theme of loss, David Grigg’s “A Song Before Sunset” explores the world of a piano player who finds the sudden opportunity to use his musical gifts after years of living without his art in his life. Both stories, as well as several others, really made me think about how many things I have in my life that I take for granted.
I only didn’t care for two of the stories in the book, and they weren’t terrible, just different in form than I usually prefer. One was the most hardcore science fiction tale of the book, and I prefer to stay away from really hardcore sci fi. All in all, it’s a great anthology with stories from a number of authors giving a nicely varied survey of an interesting subject that people enjoy reading about probably more than we really should. After all, it is about the end of the world.