Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling strike out into the young adult field of science fiction with their new anthology that tackles the question: “What happens AFTER the event that breaks down society?” The anthology’s contributing authors explore how humanity has survived and made sense of a world that has lost itself to chaos and madness. Where do we find love? Security? Safety? Hope? Friendship? AFTER looks into all of these things and more with a creative selection of 19 young adult stories of apocalypse and dystopia from some of the top names in the science fiction world.
As usual with most anthologies that are edited by either Ellen Datlow or Terri Windling, there is very little to complain about in regard to the quality and consistency of the stories they have chosen. Every story is solid, featuring compelling situations and characters that will quickly draw you into their chaotic worlds. These two editors know their business.
As with all anthologies, readers will like some stories more than others. For example, some people might find Gregory Maguire’s “How Th’irth Wint Rong by Hapless Joey”, which is technically brilliant, a little difficult to read because you have to train yourself on the fly to read phonetically. Then there are stories like “The Other Elder” by Beth Revis that will hook you with her chilling tale of humanity’s survival upon the spaceship Godspeed and the unique system they have set in place to keep the people safe. “Valedictorian” by N. K. Jemisin shows us a future world in which a young girl struggles against a society of mediocrity in order to stick to her principles despite what it may mean for herself and those she loves. And then we have Steven Gould’s “Rust With Wings”. Oh, dear, Mr. Gould! Now, here’s a story that will tempt you to consider investing in a case of nuclear strength Off to fend off the bugs and creepy-crawlies as he whisks us into a not-so-far-off future that feels much too possible for my liking.
As good as these stories are, the “Introduction” and “Afterword” are both equally compelling for different reasons. Not only do you get a glimpse into the thinking of the editors as they developed and built this anthology, searching for stories of human survival in grim new futures, but you also get a chance to read about the history of young adult dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. That’s definitely something new.
It’s a pleasure to find an anthology like AFTER because it challenges your expectations of what could happen after the world comes crashing down and leaves you wanting more. I for one am glad to see a top quality science fiction anthology for young adults hit the shelves. AFTER is a wonderful new addition to the growing genre.
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AFTER: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia
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