I had never read anything by Maureen F. McHugh before, but read so many positive reviews about After the Apocalypse: Stories, that I was really intrigued. This collection is well worth reading, though I skipped one story I could just not get into. Oddly enough, it felt more like an anthology than a collection - not just because these are different types of apocalypses, but they could have been written by different authors. For me that's a the sign for a very good author, and I shall loo(c)k out for more stories/novels of hers. Another reviewers used the phrase the apocalypse "as viewed from the sidelines" - I like that description and it's very fitting. I had expected more dramatic, even thriller-like stories, but these stories show that a whimper is more likely than a bang when the end comes.
Being an "Apocalypse Junkie" I love end of the world novels and stories. From the reviews I was expecting something along the lines of McCarthy's "The Road". This is more like a dirt track in hicksville.... Each short tale left me with a "what the?" when I finished it, if I managed. The flying tale... there's 25 minutes of my life I'll never get back... really poor. Don't get me wrong the writing is good and concepts could have been great, but somewhere along the line someone obviously said "It won't all be explosions and running from bad guys, it'll be the mundane minutiae of life that we live through after an apocalypse". Well, yeah let me learn that the hard way when it finally arrives. What I want before that is some excitement in a novel, even "The Road" had you holding your breath at times. Ultimately a decently written account of itself but seriously lacking in making me want to pick it up again. Sorry.
I had previously read Maureen F McHugh's excellent China Mountain Zhang many years back, and so I did expect her short story collection After the Apocalypse to be decent, but wow, is she an absolute MASTER of the very human and literary SFF short form.
The stories are linked by the common trope of humanity moving on/surviving after an apocalyptic event - disease and dirty bombs and tech are alluded to but are less the focus of the stories and more the stage setting for some incredible portrayals of humanity in all its flaws and moments of brief goodness.
This is a very human collection of SFF that turns a jaded and cynical, but still somewhat hopeful eye, on our species and sees them for what they are.
An excellent read, highly recommended. I whizzed through it in one sitting because I had to read the next story and the next, and when I was done I was left shell-shocked.