Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bullet Reviews: The End is Nigh

I just finished a collection of short stories about the beginning of the end of the world. The End is Nigh is edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey. It is the first in a set of three set just before, during, and after various apocalyptic events. I will be doing bullet reviews of each story.

The Balm in the Wound by Robin Wasserman -  Solid tale of a conman and the apocalypse. Journeyman work with a fun premise. 7/10.

Heaven is a Place on Planet X by Desirina Boskovich - A bit long, but interesting. A look at the Martian Teleporter ethics puzzle from the inside. And a realistic look, too. 6/10.

Break! Break! Break! by Charlie Jane Anders - Meanders a fair bit, although the viewpoint character is rather dim-witted. Struck me as weak social commentary than apocalyptic. Could have been 1/3rd the length. 5/10.

The Gods Will Not Be Chained by Ken Liu - A fun variant on the AI apocalypse concept. The atmospheric build up is good. Good pacing. 7/10.

Wedding Day by Jake Kerr - Gak. Far too long with clunky dialog. A bog-standard Tunguska Bomb story that lets us know that while the vast majority of the human race is going to die and civilization is going to completely collapse the greatest tragedy EVER is gay marriage not being legal everywhere. Talk about trivializing death. 2/10.

Removal Order by Tananarive Due - OK, I am a fan of the writer, but she delivers again. Interesting tale of plague with well-written characters and a moral dilemma that is realistic without being preachy. 9/10.

System Reset by Tobias S. Buckell - Fun story about a Fire Sale apocalypse from the POV of a minor character that witnesses it all. Nice takedown of the self-important Anarcho-Capitalist Objectivists that clutter forums, as well. Fast-paced and engaging. 8/10.

This Unkept World is Falling to Pieces by Jamie Ford - A subtle steampunk apocalypse tale with a nice viewpoint character. 6/10.

BRING HER TO ME by Ben H. Winters - This feels... unfinished. I can't tell if it is a clumsy attack on religious faith or just poor writing. I couldn't remember a single character without glancing back through the story. 4/10.

In the Air by Hugh Howey - Although I am not a big fan of short stories that go back and forth between the now and flashbacks over and over and over, the story of a nano-apocalypse is good. Motivations seem realistic and the tale has no heroes. 6/10.

Goodnight Moon by Annie Bellet - Well-written, right-paced story about the apocalypse on the moon. 7/10.

Dancing with the Devil in the Land of Nod by Will McIntosh - A touch longer than needed, this was still a good read and had an intriguing apocalypse premise. My willing suspension of disbelief got a workout, but it didn't complain. 6/10.

Houses Without Air by Megan Arkenberg - A supervolcano apocalypse story. You would think such a story would be dynamic, but it was dull and boring. I had to grit my teeth to finish the sluggish pace, boring dialog, lack of tension, and bland descriptions. 3/10.

The Fifth Day of Deer Camp by Scott Sigler - BRING HER TO ME felt unfinished and suffered for it. The Fifth Day of Deer Camp is obviously unfinished and is better for it. Fun, good dialog, and an interesting location make this 'day one of the the alien invasion story' a good read and left me wanting more. 7/10.

Enjoy the Moment by Jack McDevitt - A Nemesis/Nibiru tale with good dialog and a slow-motion apocalypse juuuuuust starting.  6/10.

Pretty Soon the Four Horsemen are Going to Come Riding Through by Nancy Kress - Mercy. This story seemed like it belonged on a free mommy blog where it was an exercise in stress relief. Dialog was weird, the outlook for the viewpoint character seemed off-kilter (she was meant to be a poor single mother but came off as what Upper Middle Class Liberals think poor single mothers are like) and the apocalypse boiled down to 'bullied kids bring it on themselves, so there goes civilization'. 3/10.

Spores by Seanan McGuire - Ever read a story where the premise was good, the writing was competent, but you just knew the writer struggled to hit the minimum word count? Yeah? Here's another one. Tons of padding about OCD, gay couples, angsty teens, and violet prose detract from a fascinating apocalypse idea. 5/10.

 She's Got a Ticket to Ride by Jonathan Maberry - Another Nemesis/Nibiru tale. I was bored to tears. The writing is competent but the author couldn't seem to be able to choose between a noir, an SF, an apologetic, or diatribe. Muddled. 3/10.

Agent Unknown by David Wellington - A zombie apocalypse! A cookie-cutter, been-done-so-many-times-I-didn't-need-to-actually-read-it zombie apocalypse.
Jaded field agent with no empathy? Check! CDC involved? Check! The president doesn't want a panic? Check! The mayor wants to keep the beach open because of tourists? Che- uh, wrong genre. Sorry. Oh, the writer knows what he's doing, the underlying cause was good (if unoriginal), and it is obviously the opening salvo in Zombie Book Series 9000. 5/10 (and I want to give it a 4).

Enlightenment by Matthew Mather - This one snuck up on me. I don't want to spoil it, but the writing was more subtle than the other stories and it all hinges on the truth about the viewpoint character. Not for everyone, but well done! 8/10.

Shooting the Apocalypse by Paolo Bacigalupi - A nice character study, the writing is good and the story is OK, but the setup strikes me as more social commentary than it needs to be. But! I may be reading a lot more into it than is really there. A good read, however, and worth your time. 6/10.

Lover Perverts by Sarah Langan - An epistolary of a Tunguska Bomb apocalypse. Nice implied setting, has a subdued steampunk/alternate history vibe. 6/10.

Overall: The entire collection was a quick read. There are a few gems, plenty of solid work, and the dogs are easily forgotten. 6/10.

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