Wastelands 2 by John Joseph Adams

Last summer, while on holiday, I was fortunate to take with me Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, an anthology of stories edited by John Joseph Adams, all set within a post-apocalyptic landscape and written by a number of the world’s most talented and successful writers. The overall standard of the stories was wonderfully high and so when Wastelands 2: More Stories of the Apocalypse became available for review, I jumped at the chance. Although, in my opinion, when viewed as a whole this collection does not reach the same heights as the first anthology it does contain a number of individual stories that are every bit as good – and 2 that are arguably even better.

It is always best to focus on the positives and there are 8 very strong instances in this collection of 30 stories. So here are the stories I enjoyed the most.

The first story that really made an impact upon me was Animal Husbandry by Seanan McGuire. It was a powerful, brutal and realistic look at shock, loss and insanity. Then, following close on its heels was … for a single yesterday by George R. R. Martin, a poignant yet hard-edged tale set in a commune post apocalypse, featuring a guitar player who does ‘time trips’ using a memory drugs so he can visit his long dead –and sorely missed – girlfriend. Yes, Martin has written other worthy things other than Game of Thrones. Foundation by Ann Aguirre was a short story I liked a lot, telling of wealthy families driven underground by a manufactured plague. It really fired my imagination and the beginning, middle and especially the end were beautifully crafted. Beat Me Daddy (Eight to the Bar) by Cory Doctorow was another highlight and a realistic look at the day-to-day life of the survivors of war and plague. Although also focusing on survivors of a plague A Flock of Birds by James Van Pelt does not centre on the barbarity and violence, more on how humans manage to cope when everyone and everything they have once known has gone. Patient Zero by Tananarive Due is another excellent and powerful short story.

The 2 stories that I thought stood out as being just a little extra special were Jimmy’s Roadside Café by Ramsey Shehadeh and The Elephants of Poznan by Orson Scott Card. Jimmy’s Roadside Café told of a man, the titular Jimmy, and how he built a ramshackle little café to offer help to the ragged and terminally ill survivors of a plague while also helping himself come to terms with his own loss. I found it extremely moving, a unique and human look at the aftermath of an apocalypse.  The Elephants of Poznan by Orson Scott Card explored the death of homo-sapiens and the birth of a new species. Orson Scott Card is, as most already know, an excellent author and this is an excellent short story, thoughtful, fascinating and simply a joy to read.

As with all of John Joseph Adams’ work I highly recommended it. The wonderful thing about humans, and more specifically readers, is that we all like different things. The stories I loved may not be the highlights for others and vice versa. 30 well written stories available - at time of the review’s publication - at just £3.83 on the Kindle makes it extremely good value for money –there is a lot of reading in there.

For more information on this anthology, visit this website http://www.johnjosephadams.com/wastelands/wastelands-vol-ii/.

The 30 stories included in this collection are:

  • The Tamarisk Hunter by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Deep Blood Kettle by Hugh Howey
  • Animal Husbandry by Seanan McGuire
  • … for a single yesterday by George R. R. Martin
  • Chislehurst Messiah by Lauren Beukes
  • Colliding Branes by Rudy Rucker & Bruce Sterling
  • Ellie by Jack McDevitt
  • Foundation by Ann Aguirre
  • Beat Me Daddy (Eight to the Bar) by Cory Doctorow
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Survival Before, During, and After the Apocalypse by Christopher Barzak
  • Wondrous Days by Genevieve Valentine
  • Dreams in Dust by D. Thomas Minton
  • By Fools Like Me by Nancy Kress
  • Jimmy’s Roadside Café by Ramsey Shehadeh
  • The Elephants of Poznan by Orson Scott Card
  • The Postman by David Brin
  • When We Went to See the End of the World by Robert Silverberg
  • The Revelation of Morgan Stern by Christie Yant
  • Final Exam by Megan Arkenberg
  • A Flock of Birds by James Van Pelt
  • Patient Zero by Tananarive Due
  • Soulless in His Sight by Milo James Fowler
  • Outer Rims by Toiya Kristen Finley
  • Advertising at the End of the World by Keffy R. M. Kehrli
  • How the World Became Quiet: A Post Human Creation Myth by Rachel Swirsky
  • Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man’s Back by Joe R. Lansdale
  • After the Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh
  • The Traditional by Maria Dahvana Headley
  • Monstro by Junot Diaz
  • Biographical Fragments of the Life of Julian Prince by Jake Kerr

8/10 Contains 2 of the best post-apocalyptic stories I have read in recent times.

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