The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke - What if someone really discovered the key to the end of the world and how to unlock it?
Killing the Morrow by Robert Reed - bizarre family tale of strangers forced together to nurture delivered embryos in their bathtubs.
You Can Get Them Wholesale by Neil Gaimen - be careful what you ask for...
Fire Catcher by Richard Kadrey - Whose finger is really on the button?
Not with a Bang by Howard Fast - What if you knew for a fact the sun would never rise again?
Lost and Found by Connie Willis - bizarre twist on the search for the Holy Grail
The Wind and the Rain by Robert Silverberg - Long after pollution suffocates and kills off earth, people from other planets will take tours of the destruction left behind.
The Year of the Jackpot by Robert A Heinlein - Potiphar Breen has been studying the cycles of the earth, not the seasons but more the human lemming cycles as the earth strives to cleanse itself. Can you plot against the end of the world? Will you be able to escape it or hide from it?
Expendable by Philip K. Dick - If insects could talk and you could hear them, would you really want to know what their plots were?
Finis by Frank L. Pollack - A new sun is born and its warming light reaches the earth. Is it too warm?
A Guide to Virtual Death by J.G. Ballard - Futuristic TV Guide
Emissary from a Green and Yellow World by Robert Sheckley - If another race from another planet really did want to help us earthlings out, would we believe them?
The Portable Phonograph by Walter Van Tilburg Clark - When the only comfort left is doled out from a battery operated phonograph.
Fermi and Frost by Frederik Pohl - As the bombs fall a prestigious doctor is offered a seat on an escape flight, and takes a sick, orphaned young boy with him.
Ultimate Construction by C.C. Shackleton - Who will the last man on earth be?
The Manhattan Phone Book (Abridged) by John Varley - Were you in New York City when the bombs fell?
The Man Who Walked Home by James Tiptree, Jr. - An accident at a Particle Acceleration Facility causes a man to start walking home, but in what dimension does he walk and how long will it really take him?
Interview With A Lemming by James Thurber - What would these furry creatures have to say?
The Last Question by Isaac Asimov - Can entropy be reversed? Mans best computer evolves as it contemplates this question for over 100 billion years.
Highlights are Nine Billion Names of God, Manhattan Phone Book (abridged) and We Can Get Them For You Wholesale.
"The Nine Billion Names of God" by Arthur C. Clarke -- A Tibetan monastery uses a computer to find "all the possible names of God", in order to discover His purpose. >> "Killing the Morrow" by Robert Reed -- An omnipresent voice instructs people to hatch human-like embryos in their homes--but for what purpose? >> "We Can Get Them for You Wholesale" by Neil Gaiman -- A man hires a hit man to kill his fiancee's lover, but being unable to pass up a bargain, he gets a little in over his head. Without a doubt, my favorite story here. Love the ending. >> "Fire Catcher" by Richard Kadrey -- A military assassin plays his part in the Apocalyptic third World War. >> "Not with a Bang" by Howard Fast -- One evening, a man sees the sun get snuffed out, proclaiming to "The Hollow Men" quote: "This is the way the world ends / not with a bang but a whimper." >> "Lost and Found" by Connie Willis -- The search for a church school teacher's missing cup turns up a far more important utensil.
"The Wind and the Rain" by Robert Silverberg -- A group of futuristic scientists visits a destroyed Earth in order to restore it. >> "The Year of the Jackpot" by Robert A. Heinlein -- A statistician tries to prove his point that the incidents in our world occur in cycles. Feels more like a novella than a short story, but it does pick up at the end. >> "Expendable" by Philip K. Dick -- A man, unlucky enough to learn the truth about an army of ants, becomes their next prime target. Quite amusing in a surreal sort of way. >> "Finis" by Frank L. Pollack -- With the arrival of a new star in the Earth's galaxy comes the unexpected, fiery end for this world, which was a nice change of pace, since most of the authors in here rely on the freezing factor. >> "A Guide to Virtual Death" by J. G. Ballard -- A brief, 3-paged TV itinerary proves that television is one of man's most destructive tools. >> "Emissary from a Green and Yellow World" by Robert Sheckley -- An alien from a distant planet comes to the President of the U.S. with a warning--that the sun is going to nova in 150 years and all the people of Earth must prepare for escape.
"The Portable Phonograph" by Walter Van Tilburg Clark -- Set in a post-holocaustic winter, four men connect with the past via a portable phonograph. Very flowery writing, almost too much so. >> "Fermi and Frost" by Frederik Pohl -- A nuclear attack leaves the world scrambling for shelter. >> "Ultimate Construction" by C. C. Shackleton -- A 2-paged story in which sand covers the face of the Earth. >> "The Manhattan Phone Book (Abridged)" by John Varley -- Several paragraph-long bios of people in the Manhattan phone book, just before a bomb kills them all. Strange, morbidly humorous story. I liked it. >> "The Man who Walked Home" by James Tiptree, Jr. -- A "monster" in a crater makes his annual appearances as the world changes around him. Confusing. >> "Interview with a Lemming" by James Thurber -- The title explains it all: a scientist's 3-page conversation with a lemming. >> "The Last Question" by Isaac Asimov -- Over time, a computer is asked the same question of how to reverse entropy. An appropriate ending to this book.
I've never been very interested in science fiction, or end-of-the-world stuff for that matter, but I do like a few of the writers in "Bangs & Whimpers" (Neil Gaiman, for instance), so I had to give it a try. Overall, the book was pretty good. It became a little heavy and dismal at times (but what do you expect from a book about "the end?")--though there are a few humorous exceptions, like "We Can Get Them for You Wholesale," "Expendable," and "The Manhattan Phone Book (Abridged)" (all favorites of mine).
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