A group of seven authors have come together to create a string... no, not a string... more like a braided rope of tales set on a post-abugolyptic Earth where the great Ant-headed God Maurr has changed the face of humanity and indeed humans themselves. Only London, Hong Kong and Moscow remain standing. Somewhat. These stories will bring out the worst of your bug-related phobias when you meet giant centipedes, ants, wasps, moths and we can't forget the hybrid human-bugs. Humanity is really only a word to describe something that once was in a world where human beings have fallen to the bottom of the food chain. Within the pages of this book you will find atrocities committed by not only Maurr's bugs but by humans as well, for what wouldn't one do to protect their child, friend or their own life?
The writing styles vary dramatically between the authors, some use smooth, descriptive prose that pulls you into the story where others are bizarre, jarring and abrupt styles that throw you into the tale and force you along the story-line on the edge of your seat and leave you feeling this new world to be a cruel, unforgiving one.
Colin F. Barnes, editor and contributor of the anthology opens with Genesis. This is a gripping introduction to the book and what we have to expect in the following stories. The main character, Franklin, is an aging clockmaker, disregarded by society as just another mouth to feed, is hearing a voice in his head. A voice that has a task for him. Superbly written and a pleasure to read.
Next we have Medical Report by Victoria Griesdoorn, a not-so-mad scientist by day and daring writer by night. Medical Report reads just like its name, rather than following the typical short story rules. It is terrifying in its analytical descriptions and the underlying fear of the doctor giving the report on the capture and observations of one of The Great Maurr's minions.
Ren Warom's The Door From Below takes us to Hong Kong where Maurr's destruction is little more than a rumour. But when a gang of musicians learn the truth of the rumours, it's already too late. Warom's writing style is unique in this story. At first I found it confusing and jarring to read. But then as the story progressed, I found the choppy, abrupt style to be perfect for the characters, their speech and the fast-moving situations they find themselves in. Definitely not a story to give up on if your initial reaction is to put it down. It left me feeling uncomfortable and I had proper bug nightmares after this one. Thumbs up to anything that makes me shiver.
London Calling by Kendall Grey was one of my favourites of the collection. This tale follows Rane, a woman searching for help and shelter in the ravaged city of London but instead finds herself amongst a sort of monastery filled with religious zealots and dying bug-infected sick men and women. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn't it? A dark tale, situated right in the middle of a book that you thought could not get any darker. I fear to say more in case I spoil anything, and this is a story that deserves to be read and not spoiled one bit.
The Lucky Ones, by Anne Michaud was another excellent piece that begins with a scene that leaves you shocked and without question, feeling all sorts of grief for the main character. I'll not go into detail, for even to spoil the opening would be a shame. For Jory it's all about priorities. Misguided perhaps, but it depends on your outlook. I really enjoyed this one.
Next, we finally get to see further into the subterranean bug world in Final Passage by Belinda Frisch. What I enjoyed most about this story was the excellent imagery that had me fully immersed and granted some much needed insight into the slavery and depravity present below the world that was once ruled by humans. I had to stop reading and eating at the same time with this one. Well written, well received.
The Nursery by Amy Overly is the only story in the collection that touches on life other than humans as we meet a woman called Otter and her companions, One-Eye the actual Otter and Sarah, her human companion. Yellowstone's eruption is what began Maurr's invasion of Earth and we are at ground zero, struggling and surviving with Otter and her friends. Until the bugs find them. In The Nursery, we learn what uses the bugs have for young, fertile females. This story started out giving me a false sense of peace and security, for a few lines, before throwing me to the creepy bugs once more. Like the rest of this anthology, I enjoyed it and was left feeling emotionally repulsed at the end. Just as I expect I should feel after a good horror story.
Sanguine, the second instalment in this anthology by Victoria Griesdoorn, is perhaps my favourite of the lot. They have certainly ended on a high with this one. Ines, a young woman trying to survive in Moscow, works in a generator-powered hospital, foraging for things out in the dangerous streets that can be used to save lives, or trade for things that are needed. This story makes you question the worth of a single life in a world that has gone to hell.
Truly, I enjoyed each and every one of these stories and recommend the anthology to anyone who likes a good sci-fi/horror. These stories contain adult language and graphic content should not be read by young people (but should definitely be read by older people!).