Thursday, September 02, 2021

Wastelands: The New Apocalypse - Various Authors


Wastelands: The New Apocalypse
, published in 2019, is the third book in a series of similar collections, having been preceded by Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse in 2008 and Wastelands 2: More Stories of the Apocalypse in 2015. 


As I began this 524-page compilation of 34 apocalyptic short stories by various authors, I doubted that I was up to reading the entire collection, figuring that the similar nature of the stories would ultimately lead to my loss of interest in reading so many of them at once. After all, how many ways are there for the world to end? Well, here are some of the ones that these guys came up with:


  • Economic Crash caused by running out of oil
  • Global Warming leading to a nuclear winter
  • Virus leading to a zombie apocalypse
  • Nuclear War
  • An uncontrollable fungus
  • An unstoppable flu 
  • A quickly mutating virus
  • A takeover by computers and robots
  • Alien Invaders
  • Meteor Impact
  • A mutated rabies virus
  • Destruction of the ozone layer
  • Flooding of all land masses


You will notice that there are only thirteen end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenarios listed, and that even some of these are similar, so most of them are used more than once. That, however, is where the real creativity of the selected writers becomes obvious. Some authors focus on the cause of the apocalypse, some on the aftermath, some on how survivors are coping and adapting, and a couple (my least favorites) are just generic sci-fi thrillers focusing on the fighting between survivors. There are even a couple of surrealistic stories that, honestly, made almost no sense at all to me as I struggled through them. 


I use a numbering system to help me judge the overall quality of short story collection by assigning each story from one to five points immediately after finishing them. Short story complications, by their nature, are almost always uneven, but with eight 5-star stories, thirteen 4-star stories, eight 3-star stories, and five 2-star stories, Wastelands: The New Apocalypse comes in with a solid 3.7 stars overall based on the average rating of the individual stories.


Among my favorites are: “Snow” by Dale Bailey, “So Sharp, So Bright, So Final” by Seanan McGuire, “The Elephants’ Crematorium” by Timothy Mudie, “The Eyes of the Flood” by Susan Jane Bidelow, and “The Last Garden” by Jack Skillingstead. 


Bottom Line: Wastelands: The New Apocalypse is an entertaining, and often thought-provoking, collection of short stories with a common theme. There is something here for every kind of science fiction fan in addition to the kind of character-driven storytelling that will appeal to readers who do not necessarily share an enthusiasm for short stories of this type. This collection is so much fun, in fact, that I’m tempted now to find the first two volumes in the series.

12 comments:

  1. It's an interesting collection. It'a a great feeling when you find a book that both entertains and makes you think.

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    1. The best of these centered on the characters and the evolving moral issues/questions they were forced to confront. The one where a man was forced into a conflict about ending his dying wife's life or standing by with her on a death watch that was certain to claim his own life was gut wrenching.

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  2. I've become quite keen on short stories over the last 2 or 3 years and have read *all* sorts! LOL Apocalypitic is not really my thing though, I'm a bit of a wimp as regards that sub-genre. I can cope with one or two in a collection but am not sure about a whole book of them. However, I can see that some of these would be excellent seeing how many unusual stories I've enjoyed that I really did not expect to. And in fact, I see I do have a collection along those lines sent to me by the British Library: Nature's Warnings edited by Mike Ashley. Not quite apocalytic but how it might happen. I'll put it on the list to read soon.

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    1. This collection made some really nice inclusions from some very good writers. Even though the settings were fairly similar in most of the stories, they were so different from each other that I was able not to grow bored with that. Thematically they were very different from each other.

      Nature's Warnings could be interesting. I'll look forward to hearing more about that one someday.

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  3. The cover alone frightens me LOL

    I am glad this worked well for you Sam.

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    1. It's a spooky cover for sure...and that's what originally caught my eye. :-)

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  4. I wonder if all the stories combined would weigh on me ... about the end of the World. The one I still probably worry the most about ... is a Nuclear War holocaust. It's so bleak ... I'm assuming you read The Road ... too.

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    1. I did, and I found The Road to be so bleak and discouraging that I struggled to finis it despite my longtime admiration of the author.

      The scenario I worry most about these days is a biological war breaking out between superpowers that ends up destroying all of us.

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  5. Goodness, I still enjoy dystopian/apocalyptic books, but they don't feel as futuristic as they once did.

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    1. They read more like "training manuals" these days, don't they?

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  6. Replies
    1. It really is quite a varied collection of styles and themes. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hope to hear from you again.

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