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on 3 November 2013
Apocalyptic fiction is perhaps the growth subgenre of the last few years. I have spoken in some of my blog posts about the correlation between the economic downturn and end of the world fiction. We are fascinated by how it might imminently come about and there is not a science fiction writer who has not presented their own vision of the apocalypse. This volume of short stories is a publication by Almond Press and in the collection are the 20 short-listed stories for a recent competition, and of course, the winner.

What does the end of the world mean to you? How will it come about? Will it be violent? So sudden that you barely have time to think? What emotions might you feel and when? These are the sorts of questions that the authors have asked themselves in their stories. Each feel personal, some are amusing, some serious, some show a world racked with violence. I continue to be astounded at this seemingly endless supply of offerings about the end of the world - and where it might come from. The publisher has carefully selected from a wide range of examples of the sub-genre.

Here are my personal favourites:

The volume opens with Casting Off by Robert Holtom (the competition winner), a rather poingnant and personal story of a man sitting in a cafe watching the world go by. It is a short tale and a comment on our modern lives as an image of the end of the world itself. Very short and a very clever twist on some of the ideas about how we live today.

Sale of the century is a quirky look at how the big events are sponsored by big business. It takes a satirical look at a "celebrity culture" and consumerism and how those aspects of modern life might take part in the end of the world. It's silly but serious at the same time. You'll never laugh so much at the impending doom of humanity!

Diary of a Zee is the last thoughts of a man becoming a zombie. Slowly, he is losing his mind, reflecting on the disease that led to the zombie apocalypse. There are touches of a wasted life and it could have been far more poignant with a greater emphasis on this. However, it remains one of my favourites in the volume for its slightly different approach to the zombie story.

In Up the Road, a boy and his mother are stuck in a traffic jam when "it" happens. It is a short, personal terrifying tale, made terrifying because you don't know what is happening until quite near the end and this boy is desperately trying to rescue his mother. What is happening? Will he get her out? 15 pages of pure tension! And I loved the unconventional nature of what was causing the destruction.

This is a great volume and shows that there is a lot of unsigned authors out there. Indie publishing is on the rise and if this is the sort of quality that we can come to expect then long may it continue!

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on 20 October 2013
I've never understood why so many people don't care for short stories. They're a canapé sized literary treat that takes real skill and can grip and leave their mark as much as a novel. I've gobbled them up since I was young, and only find it difficult to track down good anthologies in which the stories, especially when they're themed, are not too same-ish.
Well, this is one of the good'uns. Great ones, in fact. I loves me a good apocalypse, but there is only so much standard nuclear/zombie/Mad-Maxish stuff one can take without it all blurring into one.

The stories in this, however, proved incredibly imaginative, beautifully written, with wonderful twists and wide interpretation of the idea of dystopia. There is something for everyone, and I sure had my favourites.

"Sale of the Century" made me chuckle - it's a perfect parody and then again a scarily likely tale of not even the end of the world being exempt from commercialisation, with an ending that still disturbed enough to class this as horror.

"Ambulance Men": The Final Solution of the Health Question operated in a warped future medical-Orwellian society in which a sneeze can prove lethal. Jesus, I gaped.

"They turn red, then black": a very human tale set in a bleak, ecologically destroyed world, with a disturbing "Handmaid's Tale" undertone, which is both heartwarming and -breaking.

"Casting off": a story within a story, if you will, a pondering of apocalypse surrounded by love, unusual and beautiful.

"We don't go in the river": a tale of pollution and barbarity which employs all the senses - to the point of making you gag. Reminded me of a scene in Wolfgang Hohlbein's "The Inquisitor" which haunted me for years.

"Stasis", a story of unresolved grief and unfinished loss, caused by a mysterious catatonia plague. Reminiscient of "The Walking Dead", with the apocalypse providing an effective backdrop for the exploration of human relationships.

And not to miss: "Rush Hour", which places the apocalypse right in the everyday mundanity, nay deadness of life, a hell on earth which has been here all along. It is still beyond me how such beautiful lyrical language managed to convey something so bleak.

There are many more, and I really recommend you give this a shot. To read good horror, you need not grasp for the next Stephen King. There is some amazing new talent out there, and it's concentrated in this book.
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on 11 January 2014
This collection of stories contains apocalyptic fiction which focuses more on the aftermath of the apocalypse, rather than the cause. The majority of the stories in the collection are good, all having different and thoughtful takes on the apocalypse.

My favourite was Liam K. Brown's story. The writing was really good and the characters were realistic and engaging. I'd definitely read more of his work! I also really enjoyed 'We Don't Go to the River' and 'Seen and not Heard'. Both of these were captivating reads with strong characters.
Additionally, 'The Ambulancemen' was an interesting concept, but I didn't enjoy the writing style as much, but I think it was because it came after Liam K. Brown's and I found his writing style much more engaging. There were also a few minor spelling/lexical errors.

Overall, the entire collection is really good with a range of strong stories. I am looking forward to the next one.
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on 8 December 2015
Sadly disappointing : there is a general feel of self-indulgency, in the sense of 'I don't care what the reader wants, look how well I write'. Problem being, it feels as if you're reading something that somebody is going to give points on, not something that has inherent beauty/magic/inventiveness etc. For example, there are 1 or 2 short stories that could be an good first chapter of a good novel : it's almost as if the author stops because they feel they done what's necessary to show the world they are a good author, not because they want to write a good novel. None of these stories are badly written in any way, they're just not well written. One last point : even if you give zombies some different characteristics, the fact they are zombies like we've seen in far too many bad films, and in no way original thinking, is a big fault in any really good sci-fi author.
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on 19 March 2018
Really good value for money little book. A little amateurish with a few tales lacking the polish of perhaps a more seasoned writer but very enjoyable and captivating for the most part. 3 or 4 stories are excellent and all in all. A very good read for the money. Would recommend.
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on 25 January 2017
...for those of you who prefer your dystopian fiction a little more brutal and less optimistic there are a few gems here, and one with such a nasty ending it made me laugh out loud.
Now if only they'd make compilations only of the dark variety and forget the 'we are all one' stuff.
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on 23 September 2013
I am not usually a fan of collections and normally prefer full sized books; however, I must say I enjoyed the stories in the anthology.

This is a collection of stories that all deal with the idea of the end of the world in one sense or another. It's good to see how different authors interpret the theme. The forward is a well-written and informative introduction to the apocalyptic/dystopian theme.

My favorite stories in this collection are 'Diary of a Zee' by Brian Lecluyse and 'Sale of the Century' by Liam Brown. The feel of the stories ranges from sad to funny, and I think anyone will find something to match their taste here. Definitely worth a read.
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on 7 January 2014
As far as a collection of Sci Fi apocalyptic stories goes, this set is OK but really lacking what I would call inventive imagination. Half way through the book I was getting bored and able to guess the story outcome, not what I was looking for, I like a challenge. This is not it.
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on 28 August 2014
A really nice eclectic mix of stories of varying length.
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