Book Review: After the Fall (various authors)

Apocalyptic fiction is perhaps the growth subgenre of the last few years. I have spoken in some of my blog posts about the correlation between the economic downturn and end of the world fiction. We are fascinated by how it might imminently come about and there is not a science fiction writer who has not presented their own vision of the apocalypse. This volume of short stories is a publication by Almond Press and in the collection are the 20 short-listed stories for a recent competition, and of course, the winner.

What does the end of the world mean to you? How will it come about? Will it be violent? So sudden that you barely have time to think? What emotions might you feel and when? These are the sorts of questions that the authors have asked themselves in their stories. Each feel personal, some are amusing, some serious, some show a world racked with violence. I continue to be astounded at this seemingly endless supply of offerings about the end of the world – and where it might come from. The publisher has carefully selected from a wide range of examples of the sub-genre.

Here are my personal favourites:

The volume opens with Casting Off by Robert Holtom (the competition winner), a rather poingnant and personal story of a man sitting in a cafe watching the world go by. It is a short tale and a comment on our modern lives as an image of the end of the world itself. Very short and a very clever twist on some of the ideas about how we live today.

Sale of the century is a quirky look at how the big events are sponsored by big business. It takes a satirical look at a “celebrity culture” and consumerism and how those aspects of modern life might take part in the end of the world. It’s silly but serious at the same time. You’ll never laugh so much at the impending doom of humanity!

Diary of a Zee is the last thoughts of a man becoming a zombie. Slowly, he is losing his mind, reflecting on the disease that led to the zombie apocalypse. There are touches of a wasted life and it could have been far more poignant with a greater emphasis on this. However, it remains one of my favourites in the volume for its slightly different approach to the zombie story.

In Up the Road, a boy and his mother are stuck in a traffic jam when “it” happens. It is a short, personal terrifying tale, made terrifying because you don’t know what is happening until quite near the end and this boy is desperately trying to rescue his mother. What is happening? Will he get her out? 15 pages of pure tension! And I loved the unconventional nature of what was causing the destruction.

This is a great volume and shows that there is a lot of unsigned authors out there. Indie publishing is on the rise and if this is the sort of quality that we can come to expect then long may it continue!

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