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on 28 July 2010
If you like SF, and you have any interest in apocalyptic fiction, this collection isn't really to be sniffed at. 500 pages, 24 stories, many classics and some excellent first prints, how can you say no to the price? As usual with these things, it isn't perfect. Can't say I loved everything in it equally (though I don't think there was anything truly honking) but the quality is mostly pretty high. As the stories have been published over a number of years, you can occasionally see, also, the different worries that people had at different times, I like that.


The Stories (will keep short, naturally they are all about the apocalypse in one way or another! Still, I find it helps to know what stories are in an anthology) Oh, and they aren't in this order in the book - this is how they were listed on the copyright page:

The Rain at the End of the World, Dale Bailey (1999): I found this flood story grim and hopeful. Which is odd: it was mostly grim, really! Woman, I think, wants to literally wash away her past...

The Books, Kage Baker (2010 - original to this anthology): Last completed story by Kage Baker before her death. I liked this one. Some kids with a travelling circus discover a library when seeking food and materials. Nice pro-reading story!

The End of the World Show, David Barnett (2006): A very British sort of apocalypse. Mike Ashley said he didn't want a zombie apocalypse, though he made an exception here. I'm glad, it's handled well and with humour!

Moments of Inertia, William Barton (2004): An apocalypse which features the whole of history! Necessarily compressed, naturally. All the same, it's rather good.

The Children of Time, Stephen Baxter (2005): Grandiose this one. Environmental apocalyse leads to the ending of our current civilisation. Humanity survives, though and continues as it always had, though with continuously diminishing returns. This is a rather good story from Baxter (though worth noting that I'm a fan).

And the Deep Blue Sea, Elizabeth Bear (2005): Exciting story - I've only really started reading Bear recently, it's all been good, though. Nice to see a strong female lead who isn't a teenaged boy version of "sexy."

The Meek, Damien Broderick (2004): Hehe, inventive play on the lines from the Gospel of Matthew.

Guardians of the Phoenix, Eric Brown (2010 - original to this anthology): Quite an entertaining little adventure through a mostly dessicated post-apocalyptic earth with some desperate survivors racing across the dry basin of what was the Mediterranean Sea. Pretty enjoyable.

A Star Called Wormwood, Elizabeth Counihan (2004): Final story in the anthology - an interesting take on the apocalypse, being as it has a far-flung and unfamiliar take on it. It's most certainly not a contemporary ecological disaster.

Life in the Anthropocene, Paul Di Filippo (2010 - original to this anthology): Ah, the wonderful Paul Di Fillippo. As ever, this is excellent stuff. Post environmental apocalypse the billions of humans on earth are packed into a small number of huge densely packed and tightly regulated cities. Features wreckers, nano-tech and extreme body mods. Great stuff!

When Sysadmins Ruled the World, Cory Doctorow (2006): Quite a famous, well-loved and well anthologised story. I have to confess I'm not a fan (though I have yet to be convinced by Doctorow). It's set in an unspecified apocalypse and the world is saved effectively by some sysadmins. The premise is quite nice and he does get some of the dialogue down well. I'm just not convinced by Doctorow's prose, generally speaking. Also, it's a bit to techno-utopian for my liking (to stress, I'm no Luddite and I don't fear change, I just find that too much of this stuff is informed by a belief that tech *will* make everything better). Life is pain and suffering and all that (but perhaps I'm just too cynical? YMMV and alla that).

The Clockwork Atom Bomb, Dominic Green (2005): I liked this - there have been wars, but the threat to the world from some foolishly used nuclear devices is orders of magnitude greater. Features the short-term needs of people outweighing the dangers posed by the solutions! Great stuff.

The End of the World, Sushima Joshi (2002): Good take on the idea of the boy who cried wolf.

The Last Sunset, Geoffrey A. Landis (1996): Very short. What would YOU do if you knew the world were about to end? Good again.

A Pail of Air, Fritz Leiber (1951): This was quite interesting - a family survives on a frozen earth where even the air has frozen (into layers - different freezing points) by collecting and defrosting frozen pails of air in their sealed room.

World Without End, F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre (2010 - original to this anthology): I liked this - humourous story about a woman who is cursed with eternal life through nano-tech and subsequently survives an apocalypse and finds herself lonely and unable to die. Great stuff!

The Flood, Linda Nagata (1998): Quite an unusual deluge story. Mysticism and madness, I think? Enjoyable.

Fermi and Frost, Frederick Pohl (1985): A nuclear apocalypse. Simultaneously grim and hopeful. Good stuff.

Pallbearer, Robert Reed (2010 - original to this anthology): Excellent story where a botched immunisation programme had condemned most of the world to death. Those that survived were poor, or they were on the religious right. The post-apocalyptic world is dominated by them (not that there are a lot of people). Thoughtful and intelligent.

Sleepover, Alastair Reynolds (2010 - original to this anthology): One of the more out there stories. Centres around Gaunt, a man who'd put himself to sleep in his 60s because he wanted to be awoken when immortality had been cracked. Awakened to find most of humanity asleep and really not much in the way of technological advance. Finds out that they are fighting in a huge war... Enjoyable.

When We Went to See the End of the World, Robert Silverberg (1972): An amusing tale of one-upmanship where a load of friends compare their experiences in their trips to the end of the world.

The Man Who Walked Home, Alice Sheldon [better known as James Tiptree Jr.] (1972): Really need to read more of Sheldon/Tiptree Jr.'s stuff. As ever this is superb. An accident causes the end of the world as we know it, but is tied up with an experiment, which creates what looks like to many of the survivors a ghost. An excellent story about family, loss and fear tied up with high energy physics. Great.

Bloodletting, Kate Wilhelm (1994): Good tale about the beginning of an epidemic (and how it may be spread).

Terraforming Terra, Jack Williamson (1998): Good stuff - set over many millions of years - an asteroid destroys earth. There had been a successfully completed robotically maintained cloning problem set up on the Moon to observe the Earth and wait until it could be re-seeded with life. Follows the cloned descendants of the people who escaped to the Moon as they wait to try and make the world ready for human habitation again.
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on 16 June 2014
An excellent collection of SF short stories. A huge book that i am thoroughly enjoying re-reading. (My first downloaded version got lost in the transition between devices) Huge in length and in variety of storyline and authorship. Here you will read stories by the giants of SF as well as those you may never have heard of before, with a short biographical introduction to each. My personal favourites? 'The Man who Walked Home' [which I had to re-read immediately because I missed so many of the clues on my first reading) and 'A Pail of Air'
A very good collection of apocalyptic fiction.
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on 26 August 2010
A good selection of short stories which certainly achieves Mike Ashley's intention of not being all doom and gloom. Some of the stories made me smile, some sad, but all of them made me think. I agree with earlier comments that this is heavy weather to plough straight through. A couple of stories at a time is enough, and after all, they are 'Short Stories'.
Worth the money, buy it and enjoy the many different styles of the authors.
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on 24 January 2011
I was going to write a list of the stories in this book but that has already been done well by a previous reviewer, so please read that. This is a decent collection of 24 stories with quite varied approaches to apocalyptic fiction. The nature of the disaster and the time frame are different in each case, as are the styles of writing. It that sense the book is good as there's bound to be something that most people would like. However, that also means that there's probably something that most people won't like.

I personally found a few stories that I thought were great, a few that were a chore to get through, and quite a lot that were not really what I was hoping for. I feel like a lot of the stories are not really apocalyptic enough for my tastes and don't really go anywhere. Perhaps I'm being a bit unfair and they are more clever than I give them credit for, but a lot of a the stories just bored me a bit.

A bit of a mixed bag, in my opinion.
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VINE VOICEon 10 August 2010
I'm only about a third of the way through this book, but thought I would comment now anyway. This is quite a good anthology - some of the stories are pretty good, but the quality is not as good as Gardner Dozois's annual SF anthology. I'd have thought that the trade-off between restricting the subject matter and being allowed to pick from numerous decades would ensure each story was a masterpiece. This isn't the case, but I have enjoyed the story by Cory Doctorow and also David Barnett's "The End of The World Show", which turns out to be extremely funny and also very moving right at the end.

A couple of pointers: firstly this is exactly the same book as Mike Ashley's "The Mammoth Book of The End of the World", which you can probably judge by the cover.

Secondly, although I've never seen this before, if you do "Look Inside" you can actually read the whole book online, should you so wish. Seeing as these are short stories you could read a couple without ruining your eyesight to get a feel for the whole book before buying. I guess the idea is that you can't be bothered reading them all and so you'll buy it if you like what you see. I'm not disappointed so far, but looking forward to DG's annual anthology when it comes out in paperback....
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on 4 January 2011
Bit of an impulse buy this one. Would give it two and a half star if I could but I cannot do that so I will err on the side of generosity with three.
Like many anthologies it has some good stories - but just as many poor and nothing that really stands out though: The Man That Walked home, Sleepover, and The Clockwork Atom Bomb, come close and When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth isn't bad.
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on 27 January 2011
This anthology is superb. I was very sceptical about reading such a generic collection, but rest assured, all of the stories apart from one or two that are a bit too cliched, are brilliant. Some are served bite-sized, some with a tang of black humour, some with purely epic vision.

'The end of the world show' was one of my favourites. Very british, funny and sad.
'The children of time' was amazing storytelling. Leaping forward epoch by epoch, see how similar children are from eon to eon.

Overall, it's a great buy if you are interested in survivalism, or are a fan of Fallout, Mad Max, or The Road.
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on 28 May 2014
The only way I managed to get through this series of for the most part really bad short stories was to read one a day and I am still not quite finished. There are a couple of really good ones in there, but not enough to make me like the whole. I feel very disappointed about it and although I am loath to give it such a low rating quite frankly I had to push myself to give it 2 stars.
That being said, this is just my opinion and I think other people would enjoy it and completely disagree with me, this is just how this book made me feel.
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on 1 March 2011
I am a huge fan of apocalyptic fiction, I read about any and all apocalyptic scenarios when I can so I picked up this book thinking it would be exactly what I was looking for. I was therefore very dissapointed when I started to read through this book and encountered nothing but half finsihed stories about vague catastrophes that were not in the least bit explained. Half the interest in the apocalypse is the how and why. This book delivered neither. A few of the stories were good, like When Sysadmins Ruled The World because it showed hoe people might cope when the world suddenly comes to a halt, plus we find out how they deal with this new world. Others just seemed pointless like The Flood, or had no obvious ending such as The Rain At The End Of The World. Many were just philosophical and to be honest I could have done without being told the meaning of our existence. I can understand what the author wanted to show, but as a collection of novels depicting the end of the world it just doesn't cut it.
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on 28 May 2013
Some of the stories here are worth 5 stars, others less, but I guess everyone will have their favourites and you can't please everybody with such a wide ranging collection.

I particularly enjoyed The End of the World Show by David Barnett, which has an interestingly humorous take on the end of life on earth; also A Pail of Air by Fritz Leiber and Guardians of the Phoenix by Eric Brown which between them paint memorable but significantly different visions of a post catastrophe earth; and The Books by Kage Baker, a child's eye view of another future.

I guess the most common thread running through all these stories is that ultimately the power of technology to shield mankind from disaster is extremely limited and without it we revert back to earlier times and simpler, harder lifestyles (at best). Given the subject matter I didn't find it in any way depressing, more I rather enjoyed the creativity of the authors in thinking up such a wide ranging take on disaster and post-disaster. Perhaps my enjoyment is coloured by the fact that I too have been considering such scenarios in my own book: 'Jimmy O'Brien and the Meteorite of Death' (check it out on Kindle).
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