Saturday, March 29, 2014

After edited by Ellen Daltow and Terri Windling

According to the news it seems as though the end of the world as we know it is just around the corner.  No one knows what form it will take - climate change, war, disease, genetic modification gone haywire, or just our refusal to think long term and protect the only planet we have. However it will end, it is what comes after that is more interesting, and the "after" is the focus of the nineteen stories that make up this anthology.

Dystopian futures are the focus of some of the most popular series at the moment, and the focus of many of the book-to-movies that are burning up the big screen.  Those dystopian futures are just one possibility though - here you have a choice of nineteen short stories from some of the hundreds of teen authors out there.  Some of the stories are the expected, a future where things have gone wrong and the people who are left have developed a new society to rise from the ruins, while others are more science fiction in nature with monsters and creatures that are our own making.  There are stories of hope and stories of apparent despair - and even more stories that just make you want to say "I told you so".

There are some stories that seem like they could just be around the corner, stories that grasp the science fiction/science fiction angle with both hands.  One of my favourite quotes from  Jurassic Park (and it may be slightly misquoted) is "we were so busy wondering if we could that we didn't stop to think if we should".  That sentiment comes through several of the stories, sometimes blatantly and sometimes dropped as hints that the disaster might have started in a lab.  Science experiments and scientific manipulation gone awry are a real threat and it is all too easy to see the future in the past of After.

In other cases the stories are about monsters and creatures that seem to come from nightmares, creating futures that are dark and leave little room for hope.  In some cases this seems more like nature fighting back, or a nightmare caused by messing with the environment.  Other stories blend together different origins to create a bleak vision of the future with little or no hope that there is a chance for the survival of human kind. 

The best thing about an anthology of short stories is that you get a variety of stories in one volume, a chance to pick and choose what you like rather than reading a book from cover to cover.  That can also be a weakness however because I found myself skipping some of the stories after a few pages (or a few sentences) because the story just didn't grab my attention.  In some cases I was surprised that I didn't like the story because it was from an author I would normally have adored.  There were also some surprising omissions here, authors I would have expected to see in an anthology like this, but that may have just been down to the timeframe for submitting material or because they are already well established in the genre.  I would have expected to see stories from Scott Westerfeld, Teri Terry, Kiera Cass, Isobelle Carmody, and Margaret Peterson Haddix to name the ones that immediately spring to mind.

This is an interesting anthology and adds new dimensions to the dystopian theme - and provides an explanation of the "true" meaning of dystopia as opposed to the common usage of the theme.  There are some truly thought provoking moments in the stories, and there are some possible ideas for further series or movies based on these stories.  If you find you like the stories in After then consider reading some of the authors mentioned above, or check out some of the recommended series and books in the list below.

If you like this book then try:
Reviewed by Brilla

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