BOOK REVIEW: WASTELANDS 2 – MORE STORIES OF THE APOCALYPSE / AUTHOR: GEORGE R.R. MARTIN, LAUREN BEUKES, SEANAN MCGUIRE / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 27TH
There is something about the end of the world that authors can’t resist writing about. Wastelands 2 – More Stories of the Apocalypse gathers together thirty such tales to create a super bumper fun book of nightmarish dystopia, and it makes for an interesting collection.Anthologies tend to fit into two broad types. One is a carefully collated and commissioned series of short stories with a common thread and ethos winding through, curated by an editor who has had some level of influence in the production and or selection of the stories. The other type is simply a collection of reprinted short stories, selected for a variety of reasons. Wastelands 2 is of the latter kind; each story can be found elsewhere. The editor has done very well to balance the theme and flavour across the collection, but with such a variable collection, the result is inevitably a bit hit and miss.
Highlights include “…for a single yesterday” by George R.R. Martin. This is one of Martin’s earlier works, and if you’re only familiar with his later fantasy novels you may in for a surprise as his style has evolved over his long career. This is a well spun tale of The Man, exotic drugs, rock & roll burn-out and the consequences of mixing unfamiliar types in a world with scant resources. Final Exam by Megan Arkenberg is a gloriously deconstructed tale parsed in the format of multiple choice. This cheerfully allows a steady and creepy style of storytelling, which is rather fantastic. Lauren Beuke’s Chislehurst Messiah is a lovely little venom-filled piece that sums up a very British Armageddon in a manner you wouldn’t expect it to happen, and Cory Doctorow’s Beat Me Daddy (Eight to the Bar) is as bleak as it is clever, detailing the misadventures of a band surviving the devastation, and what happens when someone new comes along.
They are few notable disappointments; Seanan McGuire is usually a reliable source of well written fiction, but her story Animal Husbandry is rather obvious throughout and goes in a straight line without doing much. James Van Pelt’s A Flock of Birds suffers from a similar problem; a good writer with a solid track record seemingly in phoning it in to produce a story that doesn’t really do anything. The collection also features a version of David Brin’s The Postman, which you should read if you’ve seen the movie and hated it; the written version is simply better. However, its inclusion does feel a little odd as, being a novella, it is quite long and, like several of the stories in this collection, feels like it’s just taking up space. Overall, a decent collection of stories to dip in and out of, ideal for those quiet moments when you need a bit of desolation fiction in your lives.
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