If the melt-down, flood, plague, the third World War, new Ice Age, Rapture, alien invasion, clamp-down, meteor, or something else entirely hit today, what would tomorrow look like? Some of the biggest names in YA and adult literature answer that very question in this short story anthology, each story exploring the lives of teen protagonists raised in catastrophe's wake--whether set in the days after the change, or decades far in the future.
"New York Times "bestselling authors Gregory Maguire, Garth Nix, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Carrie Ryan, Beth Revis, and Jane Yolen are among the many popular and award-winning storytellers lending their talents to this original and spellbinding anthology.
Introduction by Genevieve Valentine The Segment After the Cure by Carrie Ryan Valedictorian by N. K. Jemisin Visiting Nelson by Katherine Langrish All I Know of Freedom by Carol Emshwiller The Other Elder by Beth Revis The Great Game at the End of the World by Matthew Kressel Reunion by Susan Beth Pfeffer Blood Drive by Jeffrey Ford Reality Girl by Richard Bowes How Th’irth Wint Rong by Hapless Joey @ Homeskool.guv by Richard Bowes Rust with Wings by Steven Gould Faint Heart by Sarah Rees Brennan The Easthound by Nalo Hopkinson Gray by Jane Yolen Before by Carolyn Dunn Fake Plastic Trees by Caitlín R. Kiernan You Won’t Feel a Thing by Garth Nix The Marker by Cecil Castellucci
Ellen Datlow has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for forty years as fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and editor of Event Horizon and SCIFICTION. She currently acquires short stories and novellas for Tor.com. In addition, she has edited about one hundred science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies, including the annual The Best Horror of the Year series, The Doll Collection, Mad Hatters and March Hares, The Devil and the Deep: Horror Stories of the Sea, Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories, Edited By, and Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles. She's won multiple World Fantasy Awards, Locus Awards, Hugo Awards, Bram Stoker Awards, International Horror Guild Awards, Shirley Jackson Awards, and the 2012 Il Posto Nero Black Spot Award for Excellence as Best Foreign Editor. Datlow was named recipient of the 2007 Karl Edward Wagner Award, given at the British Fantasy Convention for "outstanding contribution to the genre," was honored with the Life Achievement Award by the Horror Writers Association, in acknowledgment of superior achievement over an entire career, and honored with the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award at the 2014 World Fantasy Convention.
i know that this collection is a YA collection, but it really doesn't read like one. usually in YA collections, there is sort of a range of stories, qualitatively, that reflect the range of teen readers, from stronger to more reluctant readers. but these stories, even the ones i wasn't totally crazy about, are completely sophisticated and could be included in any adult fantasy collection. well, mostly. there is the "meh" one that didn't really do anything for me, and seemed a little young.
oh, YA, you grow up so fast...
sometimes, even in full-length Ya dystopias, details are sacrificed. it is as though writers think "well, it is dystopian, so it doesn't have to be logical." i imagine it is even harder to accomplish in a short story, so my hat is off to all of the authors, and it is good to see so many different takes on the dysto-world.
The Segment - Genevieve Valentine
this is a good way to open the collection, as it highlights the idea that just because you are in a dystopian setting doesn't mean you know the "rules" or who to trust.things are usually even more complicated than they appear. it is a good blend of "woah" and "yeah, i could see that happening," and i liked the discovery process the reader takes along with the character in this story.
After the Cure - Carrie Ryan
this is an interesting premise: a disease causes some people to go crazy and eat other people, but once there is a cure, AFTER, what happens to the cured? how do they live with what they have done? how does society treat them??
Valedictorian - N.K. Jemisin
this one was one of my favorites, and one that i would so love to see expanded into a larger work. it was nearly perfect.
Visiting Nelson - Katherine Langrish
another good one. a very self-contained short story that manages to provide enough detail to the world, so that the reader is not left with too many questions. this is one of the more densely-written, stories, and it never feels the author is overreaching the way some of the other stories do. it is a very recognizable story, set in an unrecognizable world. in fact, tweak the setting a little, change the drug to meth, and you have a story that would fit perfectly into my beloved appalachian-noir genre.
All I Know of Freedom - Carol Emshwiller
turns out, religious cults are just as creepy in dystopias as they are for us. you would think, in a world of fewer options, joining a religious cult might look pretty good. but, no - still pretty creepy.
The Other Elder - Beth Revis
this one is among my least favorites, just because of my own personal tastes, although i really did love the ending. i just thought it was a too-complicated social system to be mooshed into a short story format, and i had some questions.
The Great Game at the End of the World - Matthew Kressel
meh. just... meh.
Reunion - Susan Beth Pfeffer
so susan beth pfeffer has teeth after all! i really liked this story because it had the casual brutality you expect to find in dystopias, and which was largely missing from her "oh no, the moooon" trilogy, where everyone was just a little too polite and cheeky, considering their circumstances. this one is short and callous and definitely worth reading.
Blood Drive - Jeffrey Ford
mandatory gun-toting in school?? how could this go wrong?? oh, like that. i really need to read more jeffrey ford. for all the blood-spatter, it was a really sweet story.
Reality Girl - Richard Bowes
this one was okay - it's a good companion to "the segment" because it deals with entertainment and its pervasiveness. plus it's got magical powers and some gay relationships that don't feel forced, like "oooh lookit how gay these characters are." this is also true of the jeffrey ford story - it is not "gay for the sake of gay" pandering, you know what i mean? it just feels genuine and right.
How Th'irth Wint Rong by Hapless Joey @ Homeskool.gov - Gregory Maguire
oh, i dunno. i wanted to like this one, but it kind of annoyed me. i understand this story and maguire's choices, but that doesn't mean i enjoyed reading it.
Rust with Wings - Steven Gould
this one was okay, but i see it as more of a "boy" story. nothing wrong with a boy story, but this one would fare better as a full-lengther. i need some answers. also, strictly speaking, this is not so much an "after" story as a "during" story. the after is what i wanted more of, here.
Faint Heart - Sarah Rees Brennan
this was a really ambitious short story, with multiple POVs and conflicting storylines, but i think it was pretty successful. and the ending was one i did not see coming, although i should have. it is kind of a perfect modern fairy tale.
The Easthound - Nalo Hopkinson
ooooh. this one was great, even though there were twins in it. and another ending i didn't see coming. i am impressed with how tough some of these stories were. not "difficult to read," but "don't get too emotionally attached, kiddos." because "after" usually sucks.
Gray - Jane Yolen
this is a poem. nuff said.
Before - Carolyn Dunn
this one didn't really do anything for me, but it isn't terrible. i just thought the limited-perspective narrator left me with too many questions. but some people like stories where you can't know everything. in long-form pieces, i don't mind filling in the blanks, but i find it less fun in a short story.
Fake Plastic Trees - Caitlin R. Kiernan
this one has an unusual story structure, which uses memory, the nonlinear and frequently interrupted writing of a life story, and an unreliable narrator, so the facts are occasionally murky which occasionally works against the actual storytelling, but ultimately i think it is effective and scary.
You Won't Feel a Thing - Garth Nix
i have never read nix before, but this apparently takes place in the nix-verse, and probably someone who has read him before would enjoy it more than i did. it is fine and bleak, but i think i would have dug it more if i had had that frisson of recognition.
The Marker - Cecil Castellucci
this is another favorite story, and one which is a good way to end the collection, because it is one of the few stories that suggests change is possible, and there might be hope after all.
the only problem with these stories is that they are stories, and you never get to see these scenarios fleshed out into a bigger-picture. but overall i think this is a good collection, and i really appreciate that the foreword gives a "new" definition of dystopia as it is being reshaped by the current YA publishing industry, and a thoughtful afterword that gives a brief overview of the history of the dystopia in literature. and in writing this review, i found i enjoyed it more in retrospect, so i am going to slap another star on it. try and stop me...
Short story collections and anthologies are always a mixed bag for me. Not only do I struggle with my own personal hang-ups when it comes to the short story format itself, you pretty much know going in to any anthology there will be hits and there will be misses. If you're lucky, a few will emerge as outstanding pieces of awesomeness, and I'm thankful to report I experienced that here.
Two things attracted me to this collection: 1) Ellen Datlow (editor extraordinaire) and 2) you had me at dystopia. I'm addicted to tales of dark and dangerous futures comprised of post-apocalyptic landscapes, where human survival is not a given, and the long and suffocating reach of a rigidly controlled society is profoundly felt.
I admit that these days we've gotten pretty footloose and fancy-free when it comes to our definition of dystopia. I'm not a purist by any means, but there are elements I expect to see (or not as it were) if I'm going to consider a story full-on dystopian. Much of it has to do with how well the society and its rules are conceived. Dystopia (just like the devil) is in the details. But we are talking about a spectrum. And there are an infinite number of spaces on that spectrum where a story can fall. The joy comes with the discovery of just how much variety and interpretation can be applied to a genre, how much can any one writer push the boundaries past what we've come to know and expect.
For whatever the reasons (and pundits and academics will argue the causes til they run out of oxygen), YA publishing is in the throes of a passionate obsession with dystopian tales and end-of-the-world scenarios. Readers are responding in kind, feeding the monster. And I couldn't be happier about that. The more authors, new and established, are encouraged to play around in the dystopia sandbox, the better off the genre will be. Push it to its limits, see what it can do, uncover all it has to teach us and the infinite number of ways it has to thrill and chill.
The short stories comprising this anthology (like every other anthology I've ever read) are not equally strong. There are definite misses where either the idea is confused or fumbled altogether, the characters underdeveloped, the prose weak. But I don't want to focus on the negative here, because there are also some outstanding pieces of writing not to be missed.
After the Cure, Carrie Ryan: You may already know Ryan from her Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy (which I highly recommend checking out). Here, Ryan tells the story of a young girl who is a recovering blood-sucking predator of humankind. In a new post-apocalyptic world of survivors, she has been cured. But it has left her lonely and longing for something more. No longer quite human, but no longer able to run with her pack, she seeks out the company of a young man with a tragic past. The writing here is beautiful, the mood melancholy.
The Great Game at the End of the World, Matthew Kressel: This one has such a weird and dreamlike quality to it, with an unsettling underbelly vibe that I can't quite call sinister, but feels like something Lovecraft could have written. A brother and his younger sister are the sole survivors of a mysterious, unknowable, cataclysmic "event". The siblings are forced to adapt to their new environment. All I can say is that it's a strange and wonderful piece.
Reunion, Susan Beth Pfeffer: Pfeffer is a prolific and bestselling YA author. This story is dark and damaged in so many ways, with a nice twist at the end. There aren't a lot of details about the society, but what we do get is reminiscent of Nazi Germany or Communist Russia. A mother and daughter proceed to interview young girls in the hope of finding their child / sister who was stolen from them years before. They recount their ordeal to her, how they had to submit themselves to the murderous whims of savage soldiers in order to find out her fate. This one is so tightly plotted, it had me sitting on the edge of my seat.
Rust With Wings, Steven Gould: I loved this one because it is such good ol' fashioned, high octane fun of action and peril. It has its roots firmly planted in the 1950's sci-fi tradition of "bugs gone wild".
The Marker, Cecil Castellucci: Interesting idea satisfyingly realized. Trust me, that's all you need to know.
Before I wrap this up, I do want to mention "Faint Heart" by Sarah Rees Brennan because it is the only one that reads like the beginning of a novel, rather than a short story. The cliffhanger ending left me screaming "Nooooo!" because I desperately wanted to know what was going to happen next. It is a "deadly games" premise where certain males are forced to compete to the death in The Trials. The sole survivor wins the hand of the "queen" - a genetically cloned model of perfection. I was just really getting into the story and warming up to the characters when it was over. This aggravated me more than pleased me.
This anthology is a rich grab bag, so don't be shy about diving in because you're sure to find something to suit your tastes. Just for the sheer variety of the stories -- I never knew what to expect next -- and the overall quality of the writing, I am highly recommending you check it out!
The Segment Really interesting world and characters. Reminded me of Hunger Games. 7 After the Cure Interesting take on a zombie apocalypse. Great characters! 9 Valedictorian Great setting. I really enjoyed it. 9 Visiting Nelson I couldn't read more than two pages because the narrative is written from the perspective of an illiterate teenager, i.e. Sint Paul, useta, coz, etc. 0 All I Know of Freedom This story was really weird. I didn't like it because it was a green global warming story making fun of religious people. 2 The Other Elder The Giver on a generation ship. 5 The Great Game at the End of the World Really weird. The earth was destroyed and friendly monsters roamed the surface. The two characters play a baseball game with the monsters. 3 Reunion Portrays a revolution in a Hunger Games esque world. 6 Blood Drive A story about high schoolers carrying hand guns to school, and the problems that causes. 7 Reality Girl Odd story about people who dive in poisonous water after golden coins to please tourists. Reality Girl gets recruited to help with a movie and learns more about herself in the process. 8 How Thirth Wint Rong By Hapless Joey Didn't even bother with this one. The title scared me off. 0 Rust with Wings Bugs that eat metal have taken over part of the US and Jeremy's family try to escape. 8 Faint Heart Though this does take place in the future I felt like I was reading a fantasy short story. Just a retelling of the labyrinth with a Minotaur. Great ending though. 9 The Easthound Standard dystopian story about kids hitting puberty turning into monsters. 7 Gray Poem about the end of the world, and it's rebirth. 8 Before Another standard dystopia. Mankind created a disease that is no killing everyone. The catch is that native America's are immune. Kind of weird and not much plot. 3 Fake Plastic Trees Nanites have taken over the world and turn everything into a plastic substance called THE GOO. Only a few cities have survived. 8 You Wont Feel a Thing Interesting world. This is actual a prequel to the author's novel Shade's Children. The world interested me enough I'll buy that book to find out more. 7 The Marker Really interesting story. Had a Giverish feel to it also. 8
Nineteen stories about dystopias or apocalypses for Young Adults, published in 2012. For the most part, OK, not so bad, most certainly creative about how the world is going to end or, anyway, how humanity is going to crash and burn. Of the 19, perhaps my favorite was by Caitlin Kiernan, "Fake Plastic Trees." It rings true as a possibilty for the future-- microscopic machines called nano-assemblers created to make things for people get out of hand and start turning everything into plastic. Somehow it seems like a fitting end. I got a chuckle out of "Blood Drive" by Jeffrey Ford--for its dark humor. High school seniors are required to carry guns to class. This story falls under the heading of "apocalyptic." I also really liked "Before" by Carol Dunn. It's about a Native American girl whose blood just might hold the key to a vaccine to save white people from death in a pandemic... The rest of the stories were OK. The one exception was "The Great Game At the End of the World" by Matthew Kressel, about kids playing baseball with monsters--I didn't get it. Other authors include N.K. Jemison, Carol Emshwiller, Gregory Maguire, Steven Gould, Nalo Hopkinson- and a poem by Jane Yolen.
I give this book a 10/10, all of the stories went together nicely while being intelligent and able to hold their heads up high saying "We all make sense and make you want to read more! But that sucks to be you because there might not be more!"
Segment by Genevieve Valentine This story was very interesting, it really made me think of the significance of actors in the present time, the characters were interesting and although one girl was very irritating her annoying-ness wasn't without reason. Great story.
After the Cure by Carrie Ryan This story was so incredible, with zombies/vampires (an interesting mix in and of itself)that are being cured and left to fit into a society with a hatred towards them. The story was intense and managed to resolve itself within it's designated twenty pages. Another great story
Valedictorian by N.K. Jemisms With cyborg/alien/droids taking away from humans (who are degenerating into a nasty race of the desperate and dumb) this short tale makes you question what exactly is humanity? Who has the real understanding of how to be great? With such deep questions it's amazing this manages to answer them withing it's boundaries without getting lengthy and boring.
Visiting Nelson by Katherine Langrish Drugs are bad for you kids, you could turn into a nasty, vile, hairy beast! At least, in this story you can. With a boy and his older mentally disabled brother escaping a drug dealer to find their own "god"-like figure together the story powers through without losing any interest value and makes you wonder 'well, what are they? Little Sasquatches??' It's new and a bit... alarming. But it's crazy interesting, I loved it.
All I Know of Freedom by Carol Emshwiller This is another great story, an ex-slave girl escapes and joins an almost Amish-like post apocalyptic religious group that are preparing for the coming of "something" to take them away to the promised land. This one was a little too weird for me and I did have questions afterward. But it was still quite good to read.
The Other Elder by Beth Revis I'll be honest here, this story kind of annoyed me. I've read the first two Across the Universe books in the series, but I was curious to see new stories and new settings. I didn't want a shameless plug of her story, it felt unnecessary and it made me lose interest as soon as I realized it was something I'd already read for the most part.
The Great Game at the End of the World by Matthew Kressel This story was weird. I didn't like it, I mean there were ghosts, robot-things, and aliens with millions of eyes on their bodies or several heads? I don't know it felt thrown together and not very well though out, I was confused and it didn't hold my interest very well.
Reunion by Susan Beth Pfeffer I liked this story, it felt vaguely World War Two, with terror reigning and that same dark Nazi feeling to it. It was interesting but not great, it wasn't very memorable.
Blood Drive by Jeffrey Ford This wasn't a very memorable story to me as it felt more like an excuse to blast apart everyone and it all happened so quickly that I didn't know what to think. Not my favorite one.
Reality Girl by Richard Bowes This story felt like "There's too much going on here. You need to simplify." This is just a short story but it felt too swollen for so short of a story. It wasn't my favorite.
How Th'irth Wint Rong By Hapless Joey @ Homeskool.Guv by Gregory Maguire Honestly. I'm just going to not talk about this one. I hate when words are misspelled in stories to add "character" yeah we get that he's not too bright but how exactly has the intelligence level fallen so far within such a short time period, surely if the woman who is adding her two cents in can spell so well and speak so well, she can home school this poor unintelligent boy?
Rust with Wings by Steven Gould I really liked this story, the new species of bugs that thrived on eating metal was very interesting, I loved it. Especially after hearing of the new threat of metal teeth or the pacemaker within the boy's father's chest. It was action packed and very very cool. I'd definitely wish this one was made into an actual book one day.
Faint Heart by Sarah Rees Brennan UGH ThIS STORY. I nearly cried at the end when I realized it wasn't going to be an actual novel. This was brilliant, well-written and incredibly interesting, it was like the Hunger Games meets The Selection. I loved it, it was my absolute favorite and I truly hope this becomes an actual story soon.
The Easthound by Nalo Hopkinson I enjoyed this story greatly, it's like werewolves mixed with Huckleberry Finn almost, it's a group of kids who are terrified of being taken by the curse and fear eating each other but it manages to tie together the children and make an unforgettable story that tugs on your compassion and respect
Gray by Jane Yolen I'm sorry, I'm not a huge fan of poetry when I'm looking forward to short stories...
The Marker by Cecil Castellucci I loved how interesting I found this. It was reminiscent of Birthmarked, which I LOVED, but managed to be it's own story about how what's commonly believed is not always right and shouldn't just be taken at face-value. I loved this story it was very interesting and immersing.
Fake Plastic Trees by Caitlin R. Kiernan This story reminded me of Carrie Ryan's book the Forest of Hands and Teeth, it had the same emotion behind it and was very incredible to read. I found it haunting and intriguing. This story was a great read and my second-favorite only to Faint of Heart.
You Won't Feel A Thing by Garth Nix Another plug from an author of an already created story, I haven't read the novel but this prologue didn't capture my attention because it already existed somewhere, I just wanted to read stories made up completely separate from other writings as an example of their creativity and writing prowess. Although the story was good it had a bit of a sexual undertone that I wasn't particularly fond of, seeing as how the lead character's main power is to seduce people. I wasn't very fond of it but the writing was still amazing and captures attention very well.
Before by Carolyn Dunn This made me very sad, I hated how they treated this little girl for her blood but as sad as the story was it was well written up until the end, I don't know how I could've missed something since there were so few pages, but it felt like I did at the end when everything stops but it isn't fully explained how or why it was.
This book will always be my favorite because it's about my favorite genre! it never bored me and i loved the different takes on what an apocalypse would be like. love love love <3 always on the look out for more books like this one.
What happens after the end of the world? That’s the thematic question behind AFTER, an anthology of nineteen stories edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.
Contributors include Carrie Ryan, Richard Bowes, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Jeffrey Ford and more.
It’s an eclectic collection with a literary bent. In the stories, the characters often try to find meaning and control in an atmosphere of dramatic change or post-change.
My favorite stories were:
Carrie Ryan’s “After the Cure” tells the story of a young woman cured of a vampire affliction that is threatening to overrun the world. The problem is the society that cured her doesn’t trust her, while she remembers and often longs for the pure simplicity and sense of family among the undead hunters of the night.
N.K. Jemisin’s “Valedictorian” tells the story of a young woman at the top of her school and living in a society enclosed by a superior machine intelligence. The last humans barely survived the war and now hide behind a massive wall that everyone knows offers no real protection. Each year, the machines ask for the smartest among the humans to be handed over.
Carol Emshwiller’s “All I Know of Freedom” tells the story of a young woman kept as an indentured servant in the home of a rich family during a time of mass poverty and natural calamity. She stumbles across a religious community that is building a rocket ship to start a new life on another planet.
Steven Gould’s “Rust with Wings” tells the story of a young man fleeing his home with his family. Behind him, a growing infestation of strange insects that devour metal is growing.
Metthew Kressel’s “The Great Game at the End of the World” tells the story of a brother and sister playing a baseball game with a strange set of creatures on a torn section of earth thrown into space, the private collection of a vast intelligence.
The voices were refreshing to this jaded apocalyptic reader, though I wish Datlow had reached out to more authors who specialize in apocalyptic fiction.
This book has 3 big things going for it: 1. They're young adult postapocalyptic, which is rare. 2. All of the stories take place only *after* the disaster has occurred--it doesn't really matter how it happened (or even what happened). 3. There's a preponderance of female authors, for once.
As with all short-story collections, some of these are better than others. Standouts for me were the ones by Genevieve Valentine, Sarah Rees Brennan (long-time fan, here) and Cecil Castellucci.
OKAY, because this is abuncha little stories bundled up in one, I'm just going to keep updating this review as I go along so I don't forget any important details.
The Segment, by Genevieve Valentine. 2 stars.
Ok so, for some reason it took me super long to get past this story. And that's pathetic 'cause its so short! But I found it completely boring and I didn't even understand what was going on til the end. Like, at all. I don't even know why. I know, so sad. But whatever.
After the cure, by Carrie Ryan. 3.5 stars.
I loved this story. The idea of writing about a rehabilitated zombie was wonderful, and the character was portrayed very well. I could relate her and her issues while also being like "ok, this is something new..." Great story.
Valedictorian, by N.K. Jemisin. 3 stars.
"You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes." (The Matrix). This story reminds me so much of this movie. I wish the storyline for "Valedictorian" was more original. But meh, it was still good. However, I did like the main character. And that ending...really?! That could've been much better. I want to know what happens!!!
Visiting Nelson, by Katherine Langrish. 3 stars.
Ok first off, I thought the two guys in this book were kids. But when one of them mentioned their age, which is 19, I was like "WHAT THE FUCK" Then reading on I came to realize that the older one, 19 year old Billy, is mentally retarded. Huh. His brother Charlie, who is 17, was the narrator. That was kind of confusing because they acted like little kids. But towards the end of the story Charlie kind of showed his maturity. OH AND ANOTHER THING, they still had cell phones? Really? Odd.
However, I really did love how Charlie cared so much about Billy. I'm so sick of reading books about sibling rivalry. It was refreshing to see Charlie stick by Billy's side, even if he was different.
Anyways...I enjoyed this story. It was interesting. It reminded me vaguely of a watered down version of a book in Charlie Higson's "The Enemy" series.
The ending was perfect.
All I Know of Freedom, by Carol Emshwiller. 2.5 stars.
THIS STORY WAS CENTERED AROUND BOOBIES BREASTS! That's why I gave it 2.5 stars. Otherwise, it'd be 2. Why? Because the dialogue was very chopped up and the characters were flat. The story didn't flow well at all.
The Other Elder, by Beth Revis. 3 stars.
The Giver. That's what The Other Elder reminded me of. Now, I don't exactly like The Giver. I find it slow paced and cliche. HOWEVER, I did enjoy this story. What really made it for me was when the elder-to-be watched the battle scene. I just loved that. It was described very well.
The Great Game At The End Of The World, by Matthew Kressel. 2.5 stars.
Baseball. Impossible monsters. A brother and sister at the end of the world. Dafaq? This story was extremely crazy, and while that's not necessarily a bad thing, its not what I normally read because I enjoy a bit more realism.
Reunion, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. 3.5 stars.
Ooooohhhhh homies. I really liked this one. Apparently searching for their sister/daughter who was stolen as a child, a mother and daughter interrogate young girls to determine if they have found her. The brutality in this story really got me hooked. I wouldn't be surprised if the author got some of her ideas from the happenings of the Holocaust. You'll have to read it to find out why. ;)
Blood Drive, by Jeffery Ford. 4 stars.
Definitely one of my favorites! In a world where its legal to bring guns to school, what exactly can't you like? More importantly, how many ways can it bring about disasters? Too many to count! But hey, who doesn't love a good, gore-filled climax?
I absolutely love this particular story because it reaches a level of realism that the other stories in this compilation have not. I can actually see this happening somewhere one day, and I can see the outcome being much, much worse. Kudos to you, Mr. Ford!
Reality Girl, by Richard Bowes. 3 stars.
Another good story. Its very similar to "The Segment", dealing with the film industry and such. However its better because it was longer and more in depth. I understood what was going on much better than I did with "The Segment" because the author gave some background information which really benefited the storyline.
How Th'irth Wint Rong By Hapless Joey @Homeskool.guv, Gregory Maguire. 4 stars.
LOL. I loved this! The writing is so crazy and stupid that its hilarious. However, the actual message of the story was great. A very original idea for a story. The ending is sad, though.
Rust With Wings, by Steven Gould. 2 stars.
I did not like this. The characters were flat; the plot was stupid and almost nonexistent. Jeremy's mother was a whiny bitch. His father was just plain idiotic. And I kept forgetting Laurie was his sister because she was barely ever mentioned. Just no.
Faint Heart, by Carrie Ryan. 4.5 stars.
This story was fantastic. The world building was great, the characters original and genuine, the dialogue flowed well, and I LOVED the plot.
However, "Faint Heart" was more like the first chapter to a novel rather than a short story, hence the 4.5 instead of 5 stars. I really wish Carrie Ryan would build off this story and make it into a novel. I'd definitely buy & read that.
The Easthound, by Nalo Hopkinson. 3 stars.
Entertaining. Nothing special, but still a fun read. The plot twist at the end was very unexpected, though.
Gray, by Jane Yolen. 3 stars.
I think it is brave for an author to put a poem in a book of short stories, because I can see why a lot of people would hate it. But I thought this was a nice poem. It flowed well, even though it didn't rhyme.
Before, by Carolyn Dunn. 5 stars.
This was the most beautiful story out of the whole compilation. Maybe its because I'm partial to Native American stories, but I completely loved this one. It just got me thinking about some of the things Native Americans went through and are still going through...it really touched my heart. Definitely one of my favorites.
Fake Plastic Trees, by Caitlin R. Kiernan. 3 stars.
Whenever a story of any kind opens up with dialogue, I'm instantly hooked. I just love reading characters talk to each other. It makes me feel like the story is going to move faster. So that was a plus for this book.
However, I did not care for the main character very much at all. Partially because her name is Cody so I kept forgetting she was a girl, and partially because I thought she was a bit weak. But I did like Max. He's legit. But in this case I think its just my opinion coming through a little strongly, so I played fair and gave it 3 stars.
You Won't Feel A Thing, by Garth Nix. 3.5 stars.
I liked this story. I enjoyed delving into a sample of Nix's world without having to buy Shade's Children. Though not exactly original, I enjoyed the concept of "You Won't Feel A Thing". I found The Arkle and his power of seduction to be interesting, and I wished I could've read more about him. Overall a satisfying story.
The Marker by Cecil Castellucci. 4 stars.
When I came to the part in this story about the babies, my heart broke into a billion little bitty pieces. Its so sad. But I loved it. The whole idea for this story was great. It was easy to read and logical. A great story to end with.
Overall I'm going to rate this book a solid 3 stars. There were some great stories, some ok stories, and some stories just plain sucked. But I think in this instance the good outweigh the bad. I would recommend this to any dystopian fans.
It's challenging to build a believable, detailed world with developed, relatable characters in a short story. In order to make a story interesting, you have to add an intriguing plot with good pacing. Some authors are more successful than others at these tasks.
3.5* "The Segment" by Genevieve Valentine - The first page was confusing and hard to get into, but then the story picked up. Loved the ending, which really pulled everything together.
4* "After the Cure" by Carrie Ryan - The pacing was quick and the tension high until the ending, which was predictable and thus disappointing. Excellent world-building and internal monologue. The character's emotional responses were very clear and interesting to follow.
5* "Valedictorian" by N.K. Jemisin - Excellent world-building and character development in such a short space.
3* "Visiting Nelson" by Katherin Langrish - The slang doesn't seem authentic; the spellings are confusing/unnecessary (eg. "teknikly"). Some of the jokes fall flat. Excellent development of setting, using sound and smell. Good pacing and build-up of suspense. I had difficulty suspending my disbelief on two issues: 1) If everything's flooded, how do they still have electricity to charge their cell phones? 2) How did Charlie learn to read?
4* "All I know of Freedom" by Carol Emshwiller - Sweet, authentic, poignant (scary). Believable. - 1* for predictability.
4* "The Other Elder" by Beth Revis - Chilling. I have to wonder if it's believable that the younger elder didn't ask what the other two rules were, before he was told, or if he did, it wasn't addressed in the story. He seemed a curious and rebellious character to me.
4* "The Great Game At the End of the World" by Matthew Kressel - Excellent depiction of teenagers. The details were in character. The dialogue and internal monologue was believable and funny. Very creative, oddball, fun Baseball generally bores me, but because of all the crazy Creepies, I didn't get bored.
5* "Reunion" by Susan Beth Pfeffer - Chilling. Spare with details--I would have liked just a little more about the disparity in the clothing or grooming of the two "sisters," to paint a more complete picture. Great ending.
4* "Blood Drive" by Jeffrey Ford - Very well-written and executed, but afterward, I kind of felt like "What was the point?" I didn't feel like the characters grew. It was too plot-driven and contrived for my tastes (to emphasize a political agenda--even one I agree with).
5* "Reality Girl" - Intense. Good. I'm not in love with the names (especially "Not"), but I got used to them.
2* "How Th'Irth Wint Rong by Hapless Joey" by Gregory Macguire - The horrible spelling was challenging to get through and I don't understand why Joey's spelling would be so horrible if he had already been born when the "'Irthsore" happened. The tragedy didn't seem to affect books and Joey had an aunt and grandpa who I would expect to be literate. Why was his aunt's spelling so poor? She spelled special "spexhul." This is the kind of spelling I would expect after generations of no books, not 15 years after If there was a reason the aunt was half-literate, it should have been explained int he story. Also, I didn't feel there was much character development or worldbuilding. The entire story was focused on the spelling, which I found implausible and distracting. The surprise ending partially redeemed the story, a response from the "Committee" written in perfect English (further confusing the literacy issue).
4* "Rust with wings" by Steven Gould - A few editing oversights were distracting. The story was very tense and plot-driven. It reminded me very much of Michael Crichton's Prey. There were a couple of things that didn't feel believable.
4* "Faint Hearth" by Sarah Rees Brennan - I appreciated her subtle political undercurrents. Fantastic ending. The writing was clunky in places and often passive tense.
5* "The Easthound" by Nalo Hopkinson - I love the gritty details. It feels like kinds around the campfire telling ghost stories, but the ghosts are real. Powerful ending. Excellent storytelling.
3* "Gray" by Jane Yolen - (poem) Too much repetition for my tastes. The imagery seemed cliche.
4* "Before" by Carolyn Dunn - Very powerful story. There was one line on the first page that took me out of the story "I have known nothing else, no light, no darkness, no night sky..." The narrator then proceeds to describe these things. She was using hyperbole but I took her literally because of the anthology's theme. I kept wondering if/how much I could trust the narrator the entire story because if she'd never seen the stars, she couldn't describe them. Perhaps that was the author's intent? But it took me too much out of the story.
5* "Fake Plastic Trees" by Caitlin R. Kiernan - I like the way that it's a story within a story. I think she uses that device to strengthen the voice--she gives us an unreliable narrator who gets called out and then become reliable--great technique.
4* "You Won't Feel A Thing" by Garth Nix - Interesting worldbuilding, although it was a little confusing. The author noted that the story takes place in the same world as his novel "Shade's Children". The story gave me a taste for the world, and I'm curious to learn more.
3* "The Marker" by Cecil Castellucci - Interesting concept.
Not only is Susan Beth Pfeffer the only contributing author whose work I've liked out of out of the few I'm familiar with, I really did not pay enough attention to this title, and as a result I got mostly things I hate about the genre instead of post-apocalyptic survivalist stories. Less than half of these merit above 2 stars. But I'm also a stubborn fool, so I marched myself all the way through to the end, and I'm even going to do a short rundown of each story just to make sure I never get curious enough to check it out again.
1. The Segment: A fairly promising start -- I wish I had more understanding of the bigger picture, but between the concept of TV news stories now being film productions and the chilling reveal of was pretty good.
2. After the Cure: There are zombies and I'm done.
3. Valedictorian: I have no idea what's going on and I'm not excited. What is the point of this much prelude if nothing is explained. (her author bio seems to suggest she has additional work set in this universe, but I still only have enough intrigue to maybe read a Wikipedia summary of it)
4. Visiting Nelson: OK. It is kind of interesting to see the ruins of St. Peter's Cathedral through the eyes of someone who has no point of reference for its significance and hero-worships Horatio Nelson almost like a deity, for reasons I'm not real clear about. (her author bio also says she's working on a novel in this setting. Was this collection...*supposed* to be some kind of elaborate test screening?)
5. All I Know of Freedom: One of the best in the bunch, because awww doggy friend! Of a poor little girl, sold as a house slave, making her escape and being smart enough to also realize that the cultish sect planning to ascend to Blisstonia is not the safest haven either.
6. The Other Elder: The Giver in space. (this is not praise)
7. The Great Game At the End of the World: Baseball with drone-humans and assorted monsters. It's like that random scene at the end of Twilight but worse.
8. Reunion: The best one, and not surprisingly, the one by my champion. Because it is the one that feels the most realistic, speaking to a dark past with a Mao-esque government regime (with that Staple O' Military Evil "choose a family member to die" trope) that has recently been overthrown, and a present that might not be the greatest improvement, with its implied vengeance practices.
(also, bless the sass in Pfeffer's author bio, she with no other sci-fi/fantasy in her past or future outside her trilogy)
9. Blood Drive: *eye roll* Oh good, an anti-gun "I told you so" fantasy.
10. Reality Girl: I have literally no idea what happened, but I gather there were mutants so I didn't try very hard. There was some exciting bloodshed at the end but I couldn't remember who the murdering or dead characters were/what significance they had and I could not be bothered to flip a few pages back.
11. Spelling this stupid doesn't deserve to be decoded. (see status update)
12. Rust With Wings: GROSS BUG SWARM NIGHTMARE.
13. Faint Heart: The Hunger Games with boys, basically. And a surprising hit! I have been waiting my whole life for someone to be brave and flip the "women suffer under ultra-conservative patriarchy" trope on its head, and this was a very promising setup, with a bonus heroine who reminds me of what other people must see in Katniss. So good I started to forget I was in a short story.
14. The Easthound: There are werewolves and I'm done.
15. Gray: Jane Yolen was my runner-up champion coming into this and she left me a POEM?!
16. Before: oh, goodness. I didn't expect any of these to make me want to cry, but this is so heartbreaking and sweetly sentimental by turns.
17. Fake Plastic Trees: Good job on a a sufficiently unnerving tale, I guess. P. sure I am going to have nightmares about everything being turned into PVC plastic by sinister and self-replicating flubber molecules.
18. You Won't Feel A Thing: what kind of weird-ass Doctor Moreau world...
19. The Marker: such an awful premise I could not bring myself to feel better even after the uplifting ending.
In conclusion, gonna need to stay away from futuristic dystopia for a good long while, because this used up my entire small reserve of patience for it three times over.
This collection of nineteen short stories about life *after* a catastrophic event was strong. As with any compilation with various authors, some are stronger than others. What follows are a few of my favorites:
The Segment (aka Let Those Who Would) by Genevieve Valentine was very 1984 with how the news was being manipulated and shown to the public. In this world, the news agencies would rather create their own stories with actors instead of interviewing real participants so that way they can control the narrative. Orphaned children are used as pawns in these stories, and one young woman helps another realize how much danger she will be in if she acts in the next segment. This story was featured in season six of LeVar Burton Reads and through his reading, the story gained deeper meaning.
Valedictorian by NK Jemisin is about a girl in a near-future dystopia who is true to herself and refuses to lie about her abilities or mask her intelligence even when she knows she will be "culled" at graduation, along with the ten least performing students. Her walled-off society is small and rigid and is not accepting of people who are different, so there is the possibility that the unknown outside world could actually be more welcoming. Reminded me of the 1986 Twilight Zone episode "Examination Day". This story was also featured in season six of LeVar Burton Reads.
Reunion by Susan Beth Pfeffer was by far the best story with a menacing Nazi/Communist vibe to it. A mother and daughter are searching for the beloved younger sister who had been kidnapped from them during the previous brutal regime. What they endured for years is horrific and there was a nasty little twist at the end.
After the Cure by Carrie Ryan took the zombie story trope and subverted it. Vail is a teenager that was previously a zombie/vampire-like creature but was given a cure to rehabilitate her. Society has a hard time accepting those rehabilitated people back into their communities, and the people themselves still feel some degree of hunger and a need to be back with their undead packs. Despite the melancholic nature of this story, there was a nugget of hope built into the end.
The Marker by Cecil Castellucci had a medieval era feel to it, but clues pointed to the society recovering from a modern-day chaotic event that killed a huge segment of society. They coped by following strict rules that had served a purpose at one time but were no longer working. It too ends hopefully, but my heart ached for one mother for whom the old rules doomed her to a life of grief.
Faint Heart by Sarah Rees Brennan was a fantasy infused story about princes battling for a princess's hand in marriage but read like the beginning of a book, not a short story. Instead of being intriguing, it left me feeling frustrated.
All in all, I would recommend this story collection to fans of the dystopian genre, for the stories of life after an apocalypse are sure to be thought-provoking to many. (Actual review 4.5/5)
The end of the world in a nice anthology of short stories, and a poem. This book has it all for even the most avid dystopian junkie.
This is almost a survival guide for readers because there is a plethora of topics covered. It's like a buffet for the most avid doomer. Vampires take over the world? Check. Bugs coming for us? Check. Aliens? Oh my! And let me not forget the Cult. This is not even a small test of what the authors have given us.
The one thing I love about this anthology is that I did not have to read it cover to cover, and that is something that many of our teens will find appealing, especially our reluctant readers. These would also be ideal for those of you who read aloud to your students as many of these are short, fast reads.
I enjoyed the variety of scenarios, and I loved to see some of my favorite YA authors take on this task. I cannot pick a favorite from the stories because I really enjoyed all of them. I will warn you: some of them are intense. I found myself not too sure where the author was going to take me and then…cliffhanger ending.
Yes, that is correct. Most of these ended with a cliffhanger. While that originally drove me a little crazy, I enjoyed it because I like the possibility of deciding the ending for myself. It was quite clever, and in many cases, the level of ananxiety I felt helped bring me into the next story.
After is a must-have for the dystopian reader, but it is also a great introduction into the genre. I feel that this would make a great hook into novels like The Hunger Games fans.
Have you read this novel? What were your thoughts? What kind of reader(s) would you recommend it to?
I love dystopian stories. There are so many possibilities that any story facing some uncertain future always manages to capture me.
Now, I know most don't like short stories, but I do. Let me tell you why? Short stories are quick to the book and for me, leave me wondering what more could happen if the author expand the story? I love that short stories gives the reader a quick glance of what life is like and then close with questions.
As I read through these stories several stood out to me. Now only are there authors that I known and love to read but I also discovered other authors that I have never heard of. And I love discovering new authors with short stories.
If you love dystopia or apocalyptic stories, read this book. There are some amazing stories that I can only hope will be turned into full fledged novels. There are also a few short stories of questions that lingered in my mind from other novels that I have read before. After is an amazing selection of stories that fill my mind with wonder. Exhilarating and exciting, After is great.
Most of these short stories were absolutely mindblowingly awesome, thrilling, unexpecting and just generally fun. That's the way short stories are right? And this was even better AS... IT HAD APOCALYPSE. I MEAN IT'S KINDA LIKE AN OKAY THING LIKE BREAD PLUS ANOTHER OKAY THING LIKE CHEEZE AND YOU'VE GOT A CHEEZE TOASTIE. Marvelous!
THe male character ones weren't that great though... it wasn't as moving or awesome or anything.... I mean the first one? One of the best, if not THE best. Genius, quite unsuspecting and the whole idea was just genius. Another favourite was maybe "You Won't Feel A Thing," and the really disturbing one where se chooses her mom to die only to kill her father.... I mean how weird is that? EXTREMELY CRAZY. It was so creepy and strangely mind blowing but just so freaking cool.
**I won this book in a GoodReads First Reads giveaway**
This review will be a little different since there are nineteen short stories in this book and I don't want a ridiculously long review so I shall just touch on them briefly.
The Segment by Genevieve Valentine
I really liked this story. It was about children and teenagers who are taken in and used to film "news" stories for the rich people in their destroyed society to see. They used this to get them to donate money to the causes. The story was quick and I really didn't see the ending coming!
After the Cure by Carrie Ryan
This one was my favorite. I loved the characters and the whole story behind it. Diet drug causes people to become monsters. And the monsters are rehabilitated and try to readjust to society. This story would have made a great book.
Valedictorian by N.K. Jemisin
I don't really know how I feel about this one yet. It was good but I found it to be confusing at times. I loved the topic of Artificial Intelligence though.
Visiting Nelson by Katherine Langrish
I liked the concept of this story. Drug dealers pushing a drug called Nirv that destroys the brain. This one really freaked me out, drugs are close to that point and imagine how much worse it would be if the world was destroyed?
All I Know of Freedom by Carol Emshwiller
This was another one that I really liked. A girl who was brought to the U.S. illegally runs away and finds a dog. While trying to find somewhere to go they find these religious fanatics who are leaving Earth on a spaceship because they believe it is going to end. I won't tell you how it ends but I loved the main character, she finds her best friend in her dog.
The Other Elder by Beth Revis
Um wow! I did not see this one coming. The story is great and I loved her writing style. I can't even go into this story besides that they are on a spaceship and there are elders who rule the people. Just read it!
The Great Game at the End of the World by Matthew Kressel
Baseball and Science Fiction fans will love this one. Two teenagers end up playing a game of baseball against creepy monsters who appear once their world was destroyed. I found myself rooting for the kids to win!
Reunion by Susan Beth Pfeffer
This was another really good one. A Leader takes over and begins to take children from their homes. A mother and her daughter are desperately searching for the other girl who was taken. This one was a bit confusing to read at times but the end clears it up. It gets pretty emotional at parts but check it out.
Blood Drive by Jeffrey Ford
I loved this one as well. Teenagers are required to carry guns with them their senior year of highschool. This goes wrong one day and the teenagers are dealing with the aftermath. I just found myself flipping the pages so I could find out what happened next!
Reality Girl by Richard Bowes
This one was pretty cool as well. Two women Real and Dare have a group of boys who dive into the polluted river for money from tourists, risking the fact that the river causes skin to fall off! I really hope this would never happen, that would be horrible.
How Th'irth Wint Rong by Hapless Joey @ Homeskool.Guv by Gregory Maguire
The writing in this one bothered me. It was supposed to be like this since the boy didn't know how to spell too well but the end of the story was horrible in an Oh My God I can't believe someone would do that kind of way.
Rust with Wings by Steven Gould
Creepy bugs that eat any metal at all. This freaked me out. I like bugs but once they start eating cars and trying to eat people's crowns and fillings they can just go away! A family tries to run from the bugs in this one and they have many close calls but you'll just have to read it to see how it all turns out.
Faint Heart by Sarah Rees Brennan
There is a queen who is the most beautiful woman ever created....yes Created. The city holds a series of trials where the men who live in the city have to go underground and fight for their lives and for the right to be with the queen. Fighting for survival and a series of trials. It was really good and the end had a great twist!
The Easthound by Nalo Hopkinson
From what I understand once children grow up they turn into these animal things and start to kill the other people left. This one was really good. I had to know what happened to the little group ofteenagers as they tried to stay alive. You won't see the end coming!
Gray by Jane Yolen
Being the only poem in the book, there really isn't much to say since it is so short but I did like it.
Before by Carolyn Dunn
This story broke my heart. It has a nice ending but the whole first part of it was dreadful. A poor teenager was taken from her home and tied up in a lab so the scientists could take her blood to try to fight a disease that they had. For some reason this girls blood saved her. I can't even really describe how fantastic the writing really is.
Fake Plastic Trees by Caitlin R. Kiernan
This was another of my favorites. A city blocked off from the rest of the world since it was destroyed by something created in a lab that went horribly wrong. The main character goes out to explore and finds the biggest discovery she could have come across. This story is told as a flashback as the character writes about what happened to her. This one really had me wondering what was happening and if everything would turn out okay.
You Won't Feel a Thing by Garth Nix
Children were taken by labs called dorms where they were meant to be turned into animals only for some of them to escape and band together to live. The ending for this one was so sad and made me want to cry.
The Marker by Cecil Castellucci
If you know anything about genetics you will know that all people have a series of codes in their DNA. For these people to survive in this world they need to either possess 3 of 4 or 4 of 4 of the preset codes or they will be "put down". A young man that becomes responsible for this task figures out something flawed in the way things are done. I honestly had no idea that this story would be as good as it was until the very end.
Overall I loved most of the stories and I really suggest you check this book out. It contains some great dystopian and apocalyptic stories.
"After" is an amazing dystopian anthology collection of 19 stories about how the world might end. When it comes to the end of the world, most people think it will be a plague, war, or aliens. But these authors had a very different take on how it all will end and I have to say, I did not expect the authors to have so many different creative endings. There was even a story about how time split that has still got me thinking. I think this would be an interesting topic to have 7-12 graders write about and we could even create our own anthology.
I've always been a fan of short stories because, I like to read before bed and I don't want to get invested in a drawn out story. Short stories are great for students because, they are short and thus hold students attention. Short stories have to get to the point quickly, causing them to start out interesting with less of a build up than a novel. This quick start allows students to get engaged faster and they are more motivated to complete it since they are short.
I think the reason why I love anthologies so much is probably due to how they encourage creative writing in a way that is almost magical. Anthologies are great for showcasing and comparing different writing styles. I think they would be particularly fun to work with in a classroom because, they can spawn a multitude of activities. They make for great discussions in literature circles and book clubs. Most of the stories in this book were dialed back on how graphic they were, which is appropriate given the target audience of YA, but still had enough kick to keep people interested. I don't think I would ever bring this particular anthology into a classroom because, a few of the stories have some very disturbing and graphic plot points, but I would recommend it for ages 16+.
I read this back in 2012 and one story that stuck out the most was Jeffrey Ford’s “Blood Drive.” I remember it because it shows what would happen when students and teachers are encouraged to bring guns to school.
Fast forward 11 years later I’m rereading these short stories and seeing parts of “Blood Drive” that didn’t cross my mind when I was 13, namely the lowering of child labor laws and having a Senator work to get kids 11-12 to quit school and work.
Anyways seeing how timely this book has gotten has me sick to my stomach
Excellent group of short stories. Some better than others, but on the whole, I quite enjoyed. And I did like that the final couple ended with a little hope for something better. Live! But they are after a world ruining event, so most are pretty dark, lots of death, a few twists and surprises. They explore many angles and if you like apocalyptic fiction - wondering how mankind might cope or try to destroy itself, these are for you.
STORY 1: The Segment by Genevieve Valentine. News is fake. And the people on the news who are playing the parts of orphans, disaster survivors, child soldiers etc. are slaves sold to the media corporations, after being caught living on the street (being a slave to the Agency is considered better – the street life is horrible). One girl (age 19) tries to warn another girl (16) away from what she thinks is 'her big break'. Why? Of course, for some horrible, depressing reason. STORY 2: After the Cure by Carrie Ryan. This is a very good story. A diet pill starts a pandemic of turning people into some sort of vampire/zombie things. Scientists discover a cure. They cure the “monsters” because they need people...the population is very low. But the “Pure” - people who were never bitten, hate and shun the “Rehabilitated”. Also, although they don't tell anyone, the “Rehabilitated” still thirst for blood and hunger for meat. They want to be Monsters again! But they can't...the Cure is permanent. VERY GOOD. STORY 3: Valedictorian by N.K. Jemisin. A very good story about humans and android/AI. They have a war. The AI wins. Are they the enemy, or are the humans who chose and fought for staying AI-free prejudiced and stupid? VERY GOOD STORY 4: Visiting Nelson by Katherine Langrish. It's the future in London. There's a drug called “nirv” that gives you an amazing high but eventually turns you into a very hairy, mindless beast. Charlie deals nerve, living under the protection of Morris, a drug lord. Charlie, in turn, protects Billy – a mentally handicapped boy. STORY 5: All I Know of Freedom by Carol Emshwiller. This could be the future...or the present. A girl (about 13 or 14) is a slave. She was sold into domestic slavery by her mother. The family keeps her illiterate and uneducated. Now that she is older the father is starting to abuse her sexually. So she escapes. She finds a dog, which she loves. Then she meets an extreme religious cult that teaches her how to read but wants her to be a breeder so that they can start a new civilization on another planet. Will she escape them? Read and find out! STORY 6: The Other Elder by Beth Revis. Interstellar starship biodome. Everyone is the same. No one is allowed to feel. The Elders rule. Think THE GIVER by Lois Lowry. STORY 7: The Great Game at the End of the World by Matthew Kressel. God decides to destroy the Earth with horrific results. STORY 8: Reunion by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Human beings are horrible people who want to dominate other humans and make them suffer. STORY 9: Blood Drive by Jeffrey Ford. In the future, both teachers and students carry guns to school. Homosexuality is illegal, church attendance is mandatory, and child labor is legal. STORY 10: Reality Girl by Richard Bowes. In a ruined New York, a girl discovers she can enter other people's minds. STORY 11: How Th'Irth Wint Rong By Hapless Joey@homeskool.guv by Gregory Maguire. This story is hard to read because the words are all spelled as if a five-year-old is writing them. STORY 12: Rust with Wings by Steven Gould. New bugs evolve that eat anything metal. They are also attracted by electromagnetic fields. STORY 13: Faint Heart by Sarah Rees Brennan. Young men are dangerous. They need to be killed off! So the government manufactures a war that takes place every 25 years. Only one man can win, and if he does, he gets to marry the most beautiful woman in the world. STORY 14: The Easthound. Growing up means turning into a hairy beast that eats people. STORY 15: Gray by Jane Yolen. This is a poem. STORY 16: Before by Carolyn Dunn. A plague is on humanity. Only one native girl is resistant, so they keep her locked up and take blood from her 6 times a day. STORY 17: Fake Plastic Trees by Caitlin Kiernan. In an attempt to replicate food using nanobots, the nanobots end up consuming the world and turning everything into plastic replicas. STORY 18: You Won't Feel a Thing by Garth Nix. This story is confusing. All adults are killed. Children are being turned into Monster/Animals by some...aliens? I don't know. It's unclear. Some children/half-monsters escape. STORY 19: The Marker by Cecil Castellucci. This is a very good story that leaves you hope for the future. CONCLUSION: This is a very depressing book. Although I guess you should expect that when you pick up an anthology about Apocalypse and Dystopia. Don't read this book if you are easily depressed. It's generally message is that human beings are hateful things that enjoy the suffering of others.
If there’s one form of literature that truly frightens me, it’s anthologies. Why? Because I personally find that when it comes to anthologies, I get really wrapped up in the plots only to find myself being cut off. The end. Done. Never mind how attached I got to the characters in the short story or how I expected a big plot, they just end and leave everything to the imagination. That’s why I love novels, because they usually tie everything up nicely. Like a ribbon on a Christmas present; Wrapped up nicely (Howdy, holiday reference).
The thing about After that sounded so interesting was the fact that it’s a series of short stories about life after the apocalypse. And yes, I did see what they did there. Anyhow, I was interested to begin reading After especially since the list of authors that they have seemed pretty impressive (I personally was excited to see what author Beth Revis had written). After not only shows all the possible outcomes of the apocalypse (should our world legitimately end, be destroyed by war or get ravaged by supernatural beasts) and for the most part, I enjoyed every moment of it.
From the starting story, The Segment, by author Genevieve Valentine to The Marker by author Cecil Castellucci, After was an anthology that has given me enough dystopia to never need to read another dystopian novel ever again. I mean really, almost every single possible topic and plot point was reached in the anthology. The only thing that I don’t think I got to read about was zombies, but even then, it’s not a major disappointment (however I was secretly hoping that Carrie Ryan would give me a final taste of her zombie universe).
My absolute favorite short story in After was Beth Revis’ The Other Elder. It takes place in the Across the Universe series and highlights the life of, you guessed it, the other Elder. It shows the dark secrets of the life of an Elder as well as the life before Amy woke up. I loved the Other Elder. I absolutely loved everything about it. The writing style, the main character’s brief point of view and I loved how it gave me off such a somber tone. I find that I can’t really say much what with it only being about ten pages long and risk giving away a lot of spoilers, but fans of Revis’ previous works will surely be pleased with the short story.
However, there was one story that I literally could not for the life of me, understand. I’m a bit of a spelling/grammar freak and the story How Th’irth Wint Rong By Hapless Joey @ Homeskool.GUV by author Gregory Maguire totally had my every pet peeve going crazy. It was like I was Bruce Banner and had to fight my inner Hulk from raging out at the plethora of spelling mistakes. So. Many. Mistakes! The opening sentence had them, every paragraph had them and I understand the need for realism… but still… Hulk smash.
After reading over fifteen stories of what happens after the world ends, I’ve gotta admit that about half way through I was getting a bit bored. Some of the stories began to get dull and the amount of dystopia stories going one after the other does get a bit bored. If there is one story that I want made into a full length novel… like now… it would be Faint Heart by Sarah Rees Brennan. It was fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.
I would recommend After to fans of dystopia, readers who don’t mind being given the same genre but with different plots and to those of us who want to know what happens after the world ends.
The Segment by Genevieve Valentine - The future of the news, and how they get their "story".
After The Cure by Carrie Ryan - This one was my favorite out of the whole book. Great story about what happens once you've been cured of a horrible disease.
Valedictorian by N.K.Jemison - What happens to the smartest and not so smart kids after A.I. has taken over. Scary possibility.
Visiting Nelson by Katherine Langrish - The sad result of drugs, and an apocalyptic world created because of it.
All I Know Of Freedom by Carol Emshwiller - Slavery in the future, doomsday cult, and a love for animals.
The Other Elder by Beth Revis - How to survive an insterstellar journey on a spaceship over centuries.
The Great Game At The End Of The World by Matthew Kressel - Baseball game by survivors of a destroyed world, with survivors from other destroyed worlds.
Reunion by Susan Beth Pfeffer - After a devastating war, trying to reunite with lost loved ones.
Blood Drive by Jeffrey Ford - This story should be required reading for all those second ammendment nuts who went over the deep end. THe possibility of arming students and teachers.
Reality Girl by Richard Bowes - What happens when people try to enhance people and their enviroment, and make a movie about it.
How Th'Irth Wint Rong By Hapless Joey@Homeskool.Guv by Gregory Maguire - Story told in the past tense about how the Earth is destroyed.
Rust With Wings by Steven Gould - Nano technology goes wrong. Very interesting and also possible.
Faint Heart by Sarah Rees Brennan - Story of planning for a great tournament, by both the prize and the players.
The Easthound by Nalo Hopkinson - Growing up can be dangerous.
Gray by Jane Yolen - Poem.
Before by Carolyn Dunn - An Indian child who may carry the cure of a devastating disease.
Fake Plastic Trees by Caitlin R. Kiernan - Mankinds attempt to better the world ends in disaster, and a girls discovery after that happens.
You Won't Feel A Thing By Garth Nix - Set in the same enviroment as his Shade's Children novel. Creating people with "talents", instead creating chaos.
The Marker by Cecil Castellucci - Trying to reestablish humanity after it's been decimated.
This was my first experience from several of these authors. I have only read Garth Nix and Steven Gould before. Most of these stories were very interesting, and scary possible. I know these stories are aimed at teens, but they could be a little graphic and carry traumatic images. I definitely found several authors I'm going to seek out now. Any fans of the Apocalyptic Genre should enjoy these stories.
After reading the Ashfall by Mike Mullin, the Divergent series by Veronica Roth and The Hunger Games series by Susanne Collins, I have been drawn to stories about the apocalypse and dystopian societies. They seem to be a reflection of our current society and since I gravitate towards young adult fiction, I’ve been keeping an eye out for this collection ever since I passed up the opportunity to purchase it directly from Ellen when she was a guest at ICON a few years ago. And I was excited to finally get my hands on a copy of After after months of searching the local bookstores.
If you are a fan of apocalypse and dystopia stories, you will definitely want to get your hands on this anthology. These stories were eerie snapshots of a world that might be. With the exception of two stories, I wanted most of these shorts to be full length novels. The two exceptions? I’ve read Across the Universe by Beth Revis and Shade’s Children by Garth Nix so I’ve been immersed in those worlds via full length novels. Reading about “Shade” again, I realized I need to re-read that book this year.
My Favorite Story: Blood Drive By Jeffery Ford
With all the recent stories about gun massacres and the arguments for and against gun control, this story made me realize that guns in the hands of everyone might not be a good idea. In this story, teenagers are given guns their senior year in high school. It’s a right of passage like getting car when you are sixteen or going out for drinks on your 21st. The horrifying results of this right of passage at one school and comments about the government will give you pause.
My Least Favorite Story: Gray By Jane Yolen
I am just not a fan of poetry. It’s as simple as that.
Paging back through this book, I would love to share my thoughts on each an every story, but this review would go on for days! Let’s just say that if you are fan of destroyed worlds, this anthology is one you should consider picking up. Filled with stories about creepy worlds with kids doing what they can to survive, this anthology will not disappoint.
Datlow and Windling's YA anthologies are always worth reading. The first one I read was The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm in 2004. That book was worth reading for its introduction and its list of Further Reading alone. It introduced me to The King of Elfland's Daughter and Stardust . For months, I was obsessed with faeries, reading novel after novel from the list. I also read their anthology The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest which has all the same great information, Further Reading list and stories. So, even though I was already reading four books, I had to take a break when After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopiafinally came in for me at my library after weeks of being on the hold list. I read the anthology in two days ( I wish I could savor these, but isn't that how holds always work, coming in at the wrong time? ) The stories are great, with the ones by Genevieve Valentine, N.K. Jemisin, and Sarah Rees Brennan being my favorites. I was very disappointed that the usual Further Reading list is gone from the back of the book. This is a subject I could have definitely obsessed over!
So I started out this review with 5 categories: great, good, meh, bad, awful; the more stories that I finished though, the more I felt that none of them were going to be bad or awful. Even though there are quite a few in my 'meh' category, they weren't really bad. Just kinda boring, or too overwhelmed for a short story. The great ones were really, really awesome, though. Definitely worth a read.
Great: • Visiting Nelson by Katherine Langrish • The Great Game at the End of the World by Matthew Kressel • Blood Drive by Jeffrey Ford • Fake Plastic Trees by Caitlin R. Kiernan • Rust With Wings by Steven Gould
Good: • The Segment by Genevieve Valentine • Valedictorian by N. K. Jemisin • All I Know of Freedom by Carol Emshwiller • Reality Girl by Richard Bowes • How Th'irth Wint Rong by Hapless Joey by Gregory Maguire • Faint Heart by Sarah Rees Brennan
Meh: • After the Cure by Carrie Ryan • The Other Elder by Beth Revis • Reunion by Susan Beth Pfeffer • The Easthound by Nalo Hopkinson • Gray by Jane Yolen • Before by Carolyn Dunn • You Won't Feel a Thing by Garth Nix • The Marker by Cecil Castellucci
The afterword has some good info too, if you're looking for dystopian/apocalyptic young adult sci-fi read-alikes.