RogerBW's Blog

The End is Nigh, John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey 03 September 2015

2014 SF anthology about the run-up to the end of the world.

All right, I admit it, I hadn't noticed that this was yet another John Joseph Adams anthology before I picked it up. At least this time there are none of his spoilery introductions.

This is the first entry in a trilogy of anthologies (the second covering the disastrous events themselves, and the third discussing the aftermath), and apparently many of the authors have agreed to write stories split over all three volumes. That may be why many of the stories here don't have anything like a real conclusion, though that seems to be a fashionable approach at the moment anyway.

The stories stick fairly strictly to the theme, but most of them don't have characters with much direct involvement: the end of the world is happening (or going to happen) off away somewhere else, and they can't influence it, so they tell their own stories using it as a backdrop. In a few cases the viewpoint characters are direct observers and have a better idea of what's going on.

The most interesting stories for me were Hugh Howey's In the Air (even if the protagonist is basically a personality clone of Donald from Shift, complete with family and affair, the last paragraph is pure Howey, though it's inconsistent with the ground rules the story has spent so much time establishing) and Annie Bellet's Goodnight Moon (a familiar situation but, unlike most stories about choosing who might survive, it doesn't pull its punches). The rest… well. Some embarrassment as Nancy Kress tries to write in the voice of a poor black woman and comes out badly stereotyped, but otherwise nobody has much in the way of compelling characters or apocalyptic scenarios. If an author's known for a particular sort of concern, that's what they write about here. The writing is for the most part pedestrian and bloated. Lots of the stories cut off before we even discover whether the protagonists survive the disaster, not to mention before they resolve whatever petty concern was being so terribly important to them, and I found I just didn't care; none of the terribly clever stories here had anything like the impact of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. No doubt this is the sort of book that will appeal hugely to people other than me.

The final score, avoiding anything too specific:

Celestial body impact: 7
Disease/biological warfare: 5
Aliens/unknown beings: 3
Environmental change: 3
Societal collapse: 2
Other cause: 2

Not only am I not planning to read the other two volumes, I'm distinctly less likely to pick up future anthologies edited by Adams.

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See also:
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

  1. Posted by John Dallman at 11:01am on 04 September 2015

    I quite liked his anthology HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!, but none of the writers were taking it seriously, nor were they meant to.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 11:12am on 04 September 2015

    That may have been why The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination often felt flat: an attempt to repeat the success of that earlier book without catching whatever it was that made it good.

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