Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review - WASTELANDS: Stories of the Apocalypse

WASTELANDS: Stories of the Apocalypse - Various
Every now and then (usually when I know I am not going to be able to do a lot of reading), I opt for a short story collection. The stories are usually hit and miss, but what the compilation does do is introduce me to the works of authors I may have heard of but had not yet experienced yet. For example, I began reading Robin Hobb thanks to a short story of hers and I will also be checking out Joe Lansdale.
This collection caught my eye due to it containing books from my favourite authors: Robert McCammon and Stephen King.
The blurb:
Famine, Death, War, and Pestilence: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the harbingers of Armageddon - these are our guides through the Wastelands . . . From the Book of Revelations to The Road Warrior; from A Canticle for Leibowitz to The Road, storytellers have long imagined the end of the world, weaving tales of catastrophe, chaos, and calamity.

Gathering together the best post-apocalyptic literature of the last two decades from many of today's most renowned authors of speculative fiction, including George R.R. Martin, Gene Wolfe, Orson Scott Card, Carol Emshwiller, Jonathan Lethem, Octavia E. Butler, and Stephen King, Wastelands explores the scientific, psychological, and philosophical questions of what it means to remain human in the wake of Armageddon.
Usually a collection of short stories that feature multiple authors has to have a theme running through it. Usually that theme is tenuous and can be interpreted in a number of ways. Unfortunately, the theme for this compilation is the Apocalypse. Whilst there is some variety I found the theme too restrictive. As a result the stories usually covered the same storylines. The only difference between them was whether or not the author decided to detail the moment the world changed or not. When there are 22 stories this can get a tad monotonous.
Having said that, there are some excellent novels in here:
When Sysadmins ruled the earth by Cory Doctorow is an interesting novella about a techie who witnesses the end of the world. In the resultant aftermath he tries to keep the internet going as a new future. The story loses momentum toward the end but the journey is definitely engaging.
Judgement Passed by Jerry Ortion is an excellent story of astronauts who return to Earth to find it empty. Jesus had returned and had taken everyone away. What follows is an excellent character study on the remaining crew as they argue over what to do next, with one going to great extremes to try and establish contact with God.
Finally, Ginny sweethip's flying circus by Neal Barrett Jr wins points for the best story and best title. It is an great little tale of a woman running a con by delivering a fake sexual experience. When the con is exposed she faces a fight for her life.
All of the above I would rate 9/10.
There are other strong stories: Robert McCammon, Stephen King, James Van Pelt, Catherine Wells, Carol Emswiller, David Grigg and Paulo Bacigalupi all deliver strong stories. Whilst Elizabeth Bear and Gene Wolfe stories are solid with their writing style convincing me to look them up in future. In fact the collection would have been infinitely better if it just contained these names.
Unfortunately there are far too many stories that are merely solid and a few that seem rather pointless. To name them would be harsh but if you should be able to work them out.
Overall I would recommend this collection as the good outweighs the mediocre. I would advise you to dip in and out of the collection though to avoid monotony.
My rating 7