Science Fiction Though the Decades

Monday, January 16, 2012

2008: Wastelands (Adams, John Joseph [editor])

How social creatures deal with the loss of society... and gasoline (3/5)
From March 7, 2011

A collection of apocalyptic stories this is not, rather it is a collection of post-apocalyptic stories during a time when this is all the rage among readers of fiction, (thank you very much Cormac McCarthy). As a science fiction reader, I have read a number of post-apocalyptic novels in my time (Ballard's The Drought, Stewart's Earth Abides, Wyndham's Day of the Triffids, Frank's Alas Babylon and hearty handful of others). So, the material is nothing new to me but I haven't been exposed to the short story side of the sub-genre. Much like all other collections about plot specific stories, the stories are hit and miss.

If the reader is looking for entertaining ways in which humans will perish from the planet, this really isn't it. If the reader is looking for ways in which humans cope with the aftermath of mass tragedy, this book really isn't all that either. But like a good collection of stories, it DOES have the entertaining bits, the humanistic bits and also the humor of human folly.

The End of the Whole Mess (Stephen King-1986) - 5/5 - Elder brother to a genius writes his parting words before he succumbs to the disease unknowingly beset by his brother with only the best intention at heart: to save the world. 19 pages

Salvage (Orson Scott Card-1986) - 3/5 - Mormons assist a salvager in probing the temple for the legendary promise of golden riches, as the salvager was told by other reliable truckers along the highway stretch. 15 pages

The People of Sand and Slag (Paola Bacigalupi-2004)- 5/5 - Heavily modified truly omnivorous humans in an animal-less world discover a dog amidst their chemical wasteland and adopt it as their own after debating on whether or not to just eat the nuisance. 15 pages

Bread and Bombs (M. Rickert-2003) - 3/5 - Neurotic post-trauma small town is leery of the immigrant neighbors with their goat cart with bells but the local children see an invitation for learning the truth, albeit at the expense of their parents' worrisome hearts and conniving minds. 11 pages

How He Got in Town and Out Again (Jonathan Lethern-1996) - 3/5 - A transient and his galfriend stumble upon and agree to enter in the trader's dealing, whose only service for sale is a city-wide tournament of will and endurance for thirty-two contestants who experience cyberspace, with its promises of fulfillment and its lure of alternate realities. 19 pages

Dark, Dark Were the Tunnels (George R.R. Martin-1973) - 4/5 - A mutant subterranean human scouts the upper levels of the earth for secret passages while a excavation crew from Luna open a cave and find intriguing hints of an underground civilization, but when the two groups meet each others physical limitations, words have no meaning. 13 pages

Waiting for the Zephyr (Tobias L. Buckell-1999) - 2/5 - Girl wants to leave the family wind farm for the hope for a better life aboard the ship of the traveling traders... the end. 5 pages

Never Despair (Jack McDevitt-1997) - 4/5 - A duo of explorers traversing eastern America lose a fellow traveler and debate as to whether to return home or trek on when one of them is approached by a historic apparition in a derelict amphitheater, but to each of the dialoguers is a history of incomprehensibility. 9 pages

When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth (Cory Doctorow-2006) - 4/5 - The keepers of internet equipment outside of Toronto are hermetically sealed when bio-terror strikes the globe and the group strive to keep the net alive, form a cyber-government and come to terms with having to breach the seal and meet their fate on the earth. 31 pages

The Last of the O-Forms (James Van Pelt-2002) - 3/5 - A post-global-bio-agent attack freak show conductor and his babyish 12-year old financer daughter stop in a town where the Mississippi holds a troublesome brew of its own. 11 pages

Still Life with Apocalypse (Richard Kadrey-2002) - 4/5 - Menagerie of images from the dreamscape of the author: `The sky is mostly a swirling soup of ash... the government wants us to help gather up the remaining body parts... a dissatisfied citizen had gutted an auditor... they're dragging another horse from the canal.'3 pages

Artie's Angels (Catherine Wells-2001) - 4/5 - Teen-aged academic achiever is the leader and hero of a ghetto in a secluded bubble in Kansas, where the rich lead their lives to escape the Earth and the poor merely hope to live through the day. 11 pages

Judgment Passed (Jerry Oltion-2008) - 4/5 - After twelve years on a space mission to visit another planet, the crew arrive back on Earth to read in the newspapers that second coming of Jesus and the great Judgement was held four years ago, with no one left on the face of the planet, which is mixed bag of blessings for the crew. 19 pages

Mute (Gene Wolfe-2002) - 3/5 - Siblings take a bus to their father's house, only to find his TV on mute and his corpse in the basement... and kind of find themselves in a closed universe. 9 pages

Inertia (Nancy Kress-1990) - 3/5 - Communicable disease colony houses three generations of victims, the oldest of which is being interviewed by a doctor from Outside who is untouchable to the disease and also needs a promise from the younger victims to help the rest of the world bent of destruction. 21 pages

And the Deep Blue Sea (Elizabeth Bear-2005) - 3/5 - Very reminiscent of Damnation Alley, a messenger must across a radioactively hot zone to deliver a medical parcel but is met midway by her debtor who tempts her to forget her mission in order to cancel her debt. 15 pages

Speech Sounds (Octavia Butler-1983) - 3/5 - The mental center for language formation and language understanding have been destroyed by a plague, but some aspects of everyday life still manage albeit with difficulty, frustration and confusion. 11 pages

Killers - (Carol Emshwiller-2006) - 2/5 - America is at war at her home turf and one village is only left with four men and where the women get on with getting' on except for someone, possibly the protagonists brother or perhaps not, is on a murder spree. 9 pages

Ginny Sweethips' Flying Circus (Neal Barrett, Jr.-1988) - 3/5 - An attempt at a humorous post-apocalyptic situation but really just a silly mix of silliness along the lines of `a taco and sex circus troupe take their wares to a village, keep their profit of gasoline and get a repair at the next town over but fail to adhere to the repairman's advice and find themselves at the mercy of underwriters. 15 pages

The End of the World as We Know It (Dale Bailey-2004) - 5/5 - The one-in-the-same narrator and character has a knowledge of all the apocalyptic novels and avoids setting himself in-line with the cliché, misses his wife, likes a good gin and tonic, enjoys the country home he's squatting in and reflects upon all of our personal apocalypses. 13 pages

A Song Before Sunset (David Grigg-1976) - 4/5 - Ex-pianist and now scavenger rediscovers his love for music as he searches out his old grand piano in the abandoned theater and later hears about an attack on houses of art by vandals but remains diligent as he tunes his piano for a grand return to the art. 9 pages

Episode Seven (John Langan-2007) - 4/5 - A detailed account of two survivors of a pollen invasion/monster attack/deadly virus who, by night lead a normal life and sleeping and standing guard and by day they battle against the baddies in an epic struggle between good and evil. 21 pages

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