Wastelands: The New Apocalypse ed by John Joseph Adams
Titan, pb, £8.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Focusing on the aftermath of an apocalypse, Wastelands: The New Apocalypse is a collection of short stories exploring how survival looks depending on what disaster has befallen humanity.
I enjoyed this collection because of the variety of apocalypses represented. When we think of the end of the world, there are certain scenarios which draw us more than others. Personally, it’s a pandemic or zombies. Wasteland gave me my favourites but also others that I would have considered before. For example, there is one where new weapons have torn a hole in the fabric of reality causing infertility and spontaneous combustion in elephants. The predominant reason was climate change, a sobering and timely inclusion which was chilling in how familiar it looked to the news we see now.
The theme of reproduction ran through many of the stories, the pitfalls and issues of repopulating the species when there is a limited gene pool and medical resources. Where Would You Be Now starts with a doctor at a birth and the medical team are aware of how slim the chances are for both mother and child yet the family themselves seem oblivious to the risks.
The collection is made up of new stories and relevant reprints and there are thirty-four stories, so this is a hefty book. Yet because they are short stories, and because there is a variety of apocalypses coming from many different cultures, it was easy to get through. You are not reading the same thing over and over again. The Plague, uses two perspectives to show the difference in opinion from those who were affected by nano-technology and those who escaped it, which is nothing like the reprint of Dale Bailey’s gut wrenching Snow about a husband and wife who face an alien invasion in the middle of a blizzard.
As with any short story collection, there are some I loved, and others I didn’t take to as well, and that is the beauty of these collections. Each story is subject to personal taste and because they are short, if there’s one that doesn’t grip you, unlike a novel you can skip it without losing the overall message of the book which is predominantly the strength of human determination to survive.
A personal favourite of the collection was Francisca Montoya’s Almanac of Things That Can Kill You. On the surface it appears to be exactly as the title suggests and yet it is so much more. There is an exploration of how even the smallest things take on new threat, like diabetes and food poisoning, then there is another layer, Francisca’s story of how this new harsh world has taken everything from her. It was a powerful and clever story to finish on, reminiscent of the first, Bullet Point which lists all the things you don’t have to put up with if you were the last person on the earth.