A collection of end of days stories (just before, during, post). The apocalypse has a great deal of horrific wiggle room. However, for this collection horror was not the main item on the menu. It was apparent, but greatly overshadowed by grim science fiction.
There are some very big names in this anthology, King, Bradbury, Lansdale, Dick, Clarke, Vonnegut, Campbell, and yet, the majority read like B-sides. Stuff mostly appreciated by super fans of any given author.
Some of these stories I’d read before, though most I hadn’t. Focused mainly on the issue of the end and not those experiencing it, this collection failed to meet some high expectations set when the editor chose these particular authors. Then again some excelled.
Du Bois’ The Comet is piece riddled with hard truths about the world of early part of the twentieth century (written 1920). It heavy and suspenseful in a way that’s rather surprising given the publication year. It is a fine piece of suspenseful fiction molded around flawed humanity.
The Pedestrian by Ray Bradbury showcases many of the qualities that the author honed over his career. Simple, but with suspense built on recognizable humanity, this story rolls until to the lingering hope peters away at the perfect time. There are no squandered lines in this short gem.
In one of the few I’d read before and truly enjoyed reading again was Joe R. Lansdale’s Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man’s Back. This is one of the mixed-genre shorts of the collection and does not fail to deliver in any aspect of science fiction, horror or even the touch of light fantasy. Focusing on loss after the fact as it so easily relates every living thing has a way of driving a nail into the matter. The power of this story makes the peculiarity of the finale seem undeniably plausible.
To close out the collection, Carmen Maria Machado delivers a journal entry-like tale of partners after the fact in Inventory. This story creeps up. It has little to with the apocalypse beyond a survivor’s existence and the times she’d met willing partners. Endearing as interest in the list maker grows so far as to give life to emotion before breaking it away.
Many of these stories seem too long by double, while other just lack in general. There is a great deal of imagination shown throughout and maybe that was the goal when selecting any one of these author’s end of days tales over another, most, I’m sure, have multiple options.
Imagination is great, but without all the ingredients together, it's like eating flashy rice cakes.
With the drawbacks aside, there are some wonderful stories in this collection. Stories worth reading, some multiple times.