Another insomnia read, which lead to a some very odd dreams when I finally slept. I was with one of those dream people that I know as a friend even though they don't exist in my waking life, and we tried to struggle our way through a snowy landscape. Apparently my personal apocalypse is a snowmageddon. We were so unsettlingly exposed on the white, and there was a flying terror to worry about, which I was amused to realize were the rat-birds from “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” when I woke up. So, um, try psychoanalyzing THAT.
Anyway, I think the gold standard of reviews here is Aerin's
, but I don't think I'm going to follow her lead of thoughtfulness because I'm lazy and tired. I skipped the Orson Scott Card because after my last insomnia debacle of reading-religiously themed Armageddon tales, I figured it would just piss me off. That, and Card pisses me off in general. I also skipped the Cory Doctorow because I've read it before, and wow, is that enragingly bad. It's about geeks inheriting the earth, which I think is meant to be playful, but the playfulness is just entirely undercut by how awful it is to kill everyone so a bunch of self-involved narcissists can play survivalist. I should have skipped the Stephen King story. I didn't hate it, and I like his ear for the way people talk about themselves and the people in their lives, but the mechanics of our destruction were straight up stupid. I think probably you get infected with King at ten, gulp down all his stuff while shivering and freaking out with a flashlight under the covers, or you don't. I was just never infected, and now it's too late.
Another one I'd read before was Octavia Butler's “Speech Sounds” which I was happy to read again. I have problems with her novel-length stuff, notably how flattened her characterizations tend to be, but that works just beautifully in a world where people are stripped of language. I was knocked flat by Dale Bailey's “The End of the World As We Know It” which manages to walk a line between an almost arid discussion of the genre and a heartbreaking...here, I almost said intensity, but it's the opposite of that. A man wakes up to everyone dead, quietly, inexplicably. It's something we can all understand, because, as Bailey points out, when we have someone close to us die, the world ends every single time. The man drinks. He considers the way darkness falls, noting that darkness doesn't fall so much as creep. “Episode Seven” by David Grigg is a companion piece to Bailey's story. It doesn't work as well, and I have it out for stories where the authors bold shit seemingly at random, but I kind of get off on self-aware genre exercise. Plus, he had some cool things to say about superheroes and where they fit into masculinity and the dream of cultural death.
“Still Life with Apocalypse” is brief and without narrative, but I love that kind of thing. The world ends. What else is there to say? Another fine piece is Nancy Kress's “Inertia”. Not exactly about the end of the world, but I'll not quibble with its inclusion. Fine explorations of disability, quarantine mentalities, and closed, stagnant societies. Having read Gene Wolfe's “Mute” twice, I still have no idea what the crap was going on, but, man, whatever it was strange and compelling. Don't go into the forests, kids. TOO LATE.
I'm leaving out a bunch of stories, but as I said before, lazy and sleepy. I will say that I'm beginning to trust John Joseph Adams as an editor. I seem to want longer introductions from him, which isn't a bad thing to want from someone, because the alternative is shut-the-hell-up. He's got great taste, and great connections – or, I don't know boo about publishing, but I expect that's half of what makes an editor a good one. I like his intros to each individual story, which are a little cheerleady, but then what do I expect? For him to slag the stories I didn't like? Not his job. Good collection though, and I look forward to more of his books. I hear he's got another collection coming out about zombies. Oh yes, my friends, I am all there.