Sunday, February 3, 2013

After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia - Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Title: After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia
Author: Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling (Editors)
Publisher: Hyperion, 2012 (Hardcover)
Length: 370 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Dystopian Fiction
Started: January 31, 2013
Finished: February 3, 2013

From the inside cover and back cover:

If the meltdown, plague, meteor, World War III, new ice age, or something else entirely hit today, what would tomorrow, or next year, or next decade look like?

Nineteen best-selling and award-winning authors imagine these scenarios and many others to tell us what happens after the world as we know it comes to an end. This brilliant collection brings together these original short stories, which are by turns poignant, funny, terrifying, romantic, haunting, and hopeful-and all are spellbinding, original, and utterly unforgettable.

With stories from:
Richard Bowes
Sarah Rees Brennan
Cecil Castellucci
Carolyn Dunn
Carol Emshwiller
Jeffrey Ford
Steven Gould
Nalo Hopkinson
N.K. Jemisin
Caitlin R. Kiernan
Matthew Kressel
Katherine Langrish
Gregory Maguire
Garth Nix
Susan Beth Pfeffer
Beth Revis
Carrie Ryan
Genevieve Valentine
Jane Yolen

Short story collections tend to be a hit or a miss with me. I tend to view them like albums on iTunes, I wish I could just select the ones I like and package them into my own playlist-type short story compilation. Since After is a collection about dystopian/apocalypse fiction, I figured I'd give it a try since there's a greater chance I'll like more of the stories since it is my favourite genre. Plus, I've already read works from several of the authors listed and really liked them, so bonus there as well.

I think the trick with short stories, regardless of genre, is to give the reader just enough information and development to keep their interest, but not too much to leave things dangling and readers frustrated at the end of the story. It's difficult, but some authors do manage to pull it off here.

My favorites:

The Segment by Genevieve Valentine - Once you realize exactly what's going on, you get the creepy-in-a-good-way vibes. An excellent idea and well executed.

After the Cure by Carrie Ryan - I love a good zombie-related story, which is what Carrie Ryan does best. I love the idea of the Recovered and how they struggle with being human again after crossing that line.

Valedictorian by N.K. Jemisin - I love this one, it's so awesome on so many levels. Darwinian selection, social commentary, the idea that humanity values mediocrity over intelligence...I just love it.

Reunion by Susan Beth Pfeffer - Weird, but intriguing enough to make me read it.

Blood Drive by Jeffrey Ford - Considering all the talk in the past few weeks about arming teachers in schools in the US, I think this is amazingly fitting though obviously not purposely intended. Plus, LGBT for the win!

How Th'irth Wint Rong by Hapless Joey @ homeskool.guv by Gregory Maguire - I like this purely for the dialect, but the message is good too. I'd like to read an actual novel about this universe and expand on this.

Faint Heart by Sarah Rees Brennan - I desperately want to read a full novel or series about this whole concept, love, love, love it.

Fake Plastic Trees by Caitlin R. Kiernan - Nothing like biochemical and ecological warfare to liven up a story.

You Won't Feel a Thing by Garth Nix - Shade's Children by Nix was one of the first dystopian pieces I read as a child way back in the 90s and fueled my love for the genre, the fact that this story is a mini-prequel is pure awesome.

There's enough variety here for everyone to find something they like, the fact that I had this many stories I liked is something I've never seen in other short story collections I've read. Plus, there's an LGBT, multicultural and bi-racial presence here, which always gets the thumbs up from me. All in all, I really enjoyed it and will be picking it up for my classroom to cure the short story hate our students seem to have.

Long list of amazing authors with wonderful stories, there's lots here to appeal to all readers.

Thoughts on the cover:
They picked an interesting image, seems more of the apocalyptic sort than dystopian, but it gets the point across.

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