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After the Apocalypse: Stories

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  1,500 ratings  ·  270 reviews
In her new collection, Story Prize finalist Maureen F. McHugh delves into the dark heart of contemporary life and life five minutes from now and how easy it is to mix up one with the other. Her stories are post-bird flu, in the middle of medical trials, wondering if our computers are smarter than us, wondering when our jobs are going to be outsourced overseas, wondering if ...more
ebook, 264 pages
Published November 8th 2011 by Small Beer Press (first published October 24th 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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when this came into the store, i thought "huzzah" because i already own two of her other books that looked really good. of course, i have not read them. this is the way i operate - i buy books and i squirrel them away until it feels right to read them, frequently owning several books by a single author who looks good to me, without having anything upon which to base that is a very peculiar kind of madness.but then mike reynolds reviewed this book,and he specifically recommended it ...more
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

I’m not sure why I haven’t read more of Maureen McHugh’s stories. She has a subtle, quiet style and writes with a graceful economy of language that is powerful but not overwhelming. There is no filler here, no unnecessary words or overly descriptive scenes. What these haunting stories have in common is their exploration of various ways in which the world could fall apart and how humanity copes. I loved these wonderfully character-driven stories and am thrilled I was able
Maureen McHugh has a knack—and I say 'knack' because it's even more elusive and intuitive than a talent—for investing each of her short stories with an immediately recognizable humanity, even when trafficking in genre tropes or the wantonly fantastical. In the premiere story 'The Naturalist,' the trappings of a traditional zombie story are elevated by an eminently human protagonist named Cahill whose thoughts and concerns aren't those of a caricatured horror movie hero—caught in a dumbshow of hi ...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
I've been reading a lot of short story collections lately. The three I've consumed over the last week or two have been pretty thematically cohesive for pots of author stew, this one most of all. Though not every or even most of these stories are plague-ish tales, there's a thread running through them that is basically, I dunno, doom? The sad, scrambling beginnings after sobering ends? Whatever it was, this broad framework made it easier to not feel so guilty about or flummoxed by reading them in ...more
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Jan 18, 2013 Joshua Nomen-Mutatio rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Joshua Nomen-Mutatio by: Ceridwen Sock Puppet
Despairing about the proliferation of the generally repetitive short story collection? Fear and tremble not, for After the Apocalypse is here to save the day.

Maureen F. McHugh’s collection continually conjured up the word "solid" and not in a patronizing way that one might use that word to politely describe an artistic effort that follows all the rules yet fails to captivate one’s attention or stimulate any of the other nerves in want of stimulation from art—but in the sense that it was taken i
McHugh is a fabulous writer. In just a few spare words, she creates a story, an alternate world, and multi-dimensional characters that evoke an emotional response. She has a marvelous skill at developing a story and organically taking it in an unexpected direction, all without employing typical surprise endings.

The Naturalist: After the zombie apocalypse, zombies are largely eradicated from the cities, but remain at prison encampments. One of the prisoners starts wondering about zombies. To the

Maureen McHugh hasn't published anything since Mothers and Other Monsters in 2005 and hasn't published a novel since Nekropolis in 2001 and for a while it seemed like she has abandoned fiction entirely to write online alternate reality games, and so when I saw that she had published a new collection of short stories I kind of lost my shit with excitement. I don't understand why Maureen McHugh doesn't get more acclaim. Like, I respect Ursula K. Leguin's work, and
I normally don’t read short stories. I feel that the characters just don’t have enough time to develop in a short story compared to a full length novel. But this weekend, as I was reading A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin, I had a sudden urge to read something that doesn’t have to be 1000 pages long. I had to read around 50-100 pages just for Tyrion Lannister to appear again (Jon, Arya and Theon Greyjoy are also cool though).

Anyway, so as I said earlier, reading something short really appe
This is an excellent collection, without an ounce of filler. The stories are all loosely post-apocalyptic, but each is defined by a different type of cataclysmic event: a zombie apocalypse, a couple of different viruses, etc. I always appreciate the chance to choose between cataclysms. Is it odd to feel safer after reading a book like this because some cataclysms are clearly preferable to others? In any case, while the settings are themed, what really sells the collection is the excellent charac ...more
First Second Books
I like that in Maureen McHugh’s short stories, there’s frequently a child who seems very nice and parents who are like, ‘I just don’t think I’m any good with kids and this kid is not specifically interesting to me at all, perhaps I should abandon her to deal with the apocalypse herself and she’ll probably get along better than with me.’

And I don’t know – if your parents had that attitude towards you when you were a kid, maybe you’d want to be abandoned, even if it was the apocalypse?
There's nothing terribly interesting in this collection, to my mind. The writing isn't bad, but it's kind of bland. In some places, that felt intentional, but the tone was just too consistent. The first story was sort of interesting, the straightforward, dispassionate recounting of the "experiment", which made it that bit more horrifying because you know, it involved living people. But for the other stories, that didn't work as well, and it just wasn't particularly interesting -- these ideas hav ...more
I love short story collections AND I love apocalyptic tales so I couldn't wait to dig into this one. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed. I thought a couple of the stories were really excellent and they will stick with me but the rest were just OK...nothing particularly special. (And...a pet peeve of mine...finding typos in a book bugs me and this one had a few...editor please.) Ms. McHugh writes a heck of a sentence though so I will be interested in reading her future stories/novels.
This falls exactly in between two of my strongest reading preferences:
apocalypse, yay! and short stories, boo!
and therefore it was a definite three-star book for me. So...there you go.
Tudor Ciocarlie
Wonderful disturbing and beautiful short story collection!
Dan Keating
A somewhat hit-or-miss collection, Maureen McHugh's "After the Apocalypse" offers us slice-of-life glimpses into the lives of people who have persisted after one disaster or another. Of note, McHugh's apocalypses are often a little vague in nature; these stories aren't about the end of the world so much as about the individual stories of people who are still around after large-scale cataclysms of one sort or another.

That being said, let's jump in story-by-story:

"The Naturalist" - While the overa
I get e-mails from time to time offering me electronic copies of self-published or small press titles for review. I usually say yes, with the caveat that I may never actually read it or get past the first chapter. Most of them are not very good. Once in a while though there's a real home run. After the Apocalypse, a collection of short stories by Maureen F. McHugh,is a home run.

I'd never heard of McHugh prior to receiving an e-mail about her collection. It turns out she's published four novels a
Rick Urban
The good news is, many of us will survive the various end-of-the-world scenarios that befall mankind in this fascinating short story collection; it is also the bad news. For those who fear the end of order that the cataclysm foretells, there is the comfort of knowing that at the micro-level of our individual lives, friends and family will continue to disappoint, personalities will follow dependable trajectories, and the basics of existence will remain the same: find food, avoid danger, live to s ...more
Althea Ann
I held off on reading this collection, knowing that eventually it would undoubtedly be a selection for my post-apocalyptic book club. And it came up this month… now I’m back to having read all of McHugh’s published books.

"The Naturalist" – This was a second-read – it’s included in Strahan’s ‘Best SF&F of the year #5.’ As I said last time I read it: A good, nasty zombie story, with shades of 'Escape From New York.' You can read this for free, online:

Apr 06, 2013 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Survivors
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work and a killer cover
Maureen F. McHugh doesn't really publish all that frequently—her standalone bibliography consists of just four novels and two short-story collections—but it's a real treat whenever she does. After the Apocalypse, one of those two collections, contains just nine short stories in one slim trade paperback, and six of them have already appeared elsewhere... but sometimes, as they say, good things come in small packages.

Its deceptively simple cover is the first indication that what's within might be
i used to be a great devourer of short fiction--ate stories like popcorn--but in recent years i find that i need the depth that only a full-length novel can bring. maybe it's just how much time you spend reading a novel, comparatively. i don't know. but i like complexity these days a lot more than i like small, jewel-like perfection.

and so i bounced around the bookstore aisle with joy when i saw a new maureen f. mchugh, even a slender one, and then deflated somewhat when i saw it was short stori
3.5 to 4 stars

I find this hard to rate, as with all short story collections really: there are bound to be stories that you liked more and ones that didn't quite do it for you.

Overall though I really enjoyed this collection. The stories are quite understated, muted almost, in that they are not particularly action-packed or -driven. Instead they feel like subtle, but powerful, nuggets of human psychology; McHugh is just very good in catching her characters' inner life and personality. Even though
I wanted to like this book and in fact I did. Until a point. You see the first 3 short stories are clearly written, interesting takes on apocalyptic situations, where you feel for the people. The next 4 or so have no link to the apocalypse. They felt like stories that are jammed in with similar humanistic ruminations, but in fact have nothing to do with the end of the world. Filler so to speak. They are just as touching when it comes to humanism, but didn't seem to fit in this book. I also found ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I first read the title story in The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 6, and that's when I knew I had to read more. Then McHugh's After the Apocalpyse was one of the nominees on the Philip K. Dick Award list, which gave me another excuse.

As in most short story compilations, a few of these didn't do it for me, but I like her perspective of these post-apocalyptic stories. The naturalist view of zombies, drug testing in a new millennium, and the ethics of survival... plus people w
Most stories about disaster have heroic battles of one sort or another. These nine short stories are instead about dealing with the individual and idiosyncratic difficulties of everyday life after some sort of calamity—including dirty bombs in Baltimore that separate a family, a bird flu epidemic in China that kills millions making getting a job tricky, an economic crash that throws people off the grid and impoverishes all but the most wealthy, and a zombie outbreak in the American Midwest that ...more
Nine tales of neoliberal dread. Topics include: pandemics, infrastructural collapse, AI, a zombie-filled penal colony (in Cleveland, no less), medical testing, dirty bombs, and employment as indentured servitude. At times it calls to mind Dirty Projectors' Temecula Sunrise, or a drive east of High St. on 161, with all the strange empty husks of chain restaurants. These aren't trendy stories of dystopia or voyeuristic "ruin porn," but of systemic failure, of everything just falling apart at once. ...more
I am not a fan of short stories. The analogy has been made many times that short stories are like a one-night stand when you are looking for a long-term commitment. But for me, they're more like a one-night stand that got interrupted before the good part. It's hard to get invested in characters you know you won't have long with, and once you do get interested it ends abruptly.

Not so for this collection. Every story was engaging and part of the perfection was in the length. I wouldn't have wished
Jonathan Hammond
Not after the apocalypse in a Will Smith movie way, but instead McHugh focuses on the minutiae and more personal and odd details of what life would be like, making way for a very original and often humorous exploration. Sort of like what would happen if John Cheever survived the Black Plague or Flannery O'Connor had given notes on how to write Cloud Atlas. But McHugh in her own writer and quite sensational. SOOO specific and the well-drawn details not only infuse this collection with life, but c ...more
This was a refreshing read. I'm glad to have discovered McHugh. She writes with a touching clarity, and although several of the stories in this collection have a feminine tint, the range of her literary voice is broad (some also have male protagonists). If you don't like stories that leave large pieces unexplained, this isn't for you. In other words, it is seldom explained in any detail what it was to have brought about the "apocalypse" in the short stories that tackle that genre. Some of the st ...more
A collection of short stories, dealing with various apocalypses. (Wow, that's a weird word to say/type!)

Some were actual world ending apocalypses, some just regional apocalypses, some not even what I would necessarily call an apocalypse.

All of the stories were well written, McHugh using well turned phrases to convey her thoughts A few of the stories were just meh, but the majority were very good. The first and last stories were heartbreaking.

This was recommended to me by my good friend Pammy, and I really appreciate it. The stories in this collection are all dystopian future visions, post-war/disease/zombie etc., but the focus was more on the characters involved than the situations. Very well written. My favorites were The Naturalist and After the Apocalypse. I have to seek out McHugh's novels now!

I may need to create a new bookshelf: "dystopian future books"
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Maureen F. McHugh (born 1959) is a science fiction and fantasy writer.

Her first published story appeared in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in 1989. Since then, she has written four novels and over twenty short stories. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang (1992), was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. In 1996 she won a Hugo Award for h
More about Maureen F. McHugh...
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