In a substantial anthology of stories about the end of the world, editor Silverberg (Tales of Majipoor, 2013, etc.) brings together works by both classic science-fiction writers and contemporary authors.
The 21 stories here have a pleasing range of styles and contexts, offering a much-appreciated texture to the potentially dispiriting common theme of apocalypse and post-apocalypse. The oldest hail from the early 1900s (Jules Verne started writing “The Eternal Adam” in 1904), and the most recent story (“Prayers to the Sun By a Dying Person” by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro) has its debut in this book. Each story is preceded by a short introduction in which Silverberg gives readers a chatty and often charming tidbit of the author’s biography and explains why he chose the story. The reader learns not only that James Tiptree Jr. was the pen name of Alice Sheldon, but also that she once worked for the CIA; that Malcolm Edwards only ever published one story but is a celebrated editor; and that Silverberg has no compunction about including multiple stories by certain authors, or stories by himself, or a story by his wife (“Three Days After” by Karen Haber). The sense of genuine personal delight and admiration as a guiding editorial principle lends the anthology the friendly air of someone showing off a beloved and much-studied collection, despite the often dire content of the stories themselves. The stories are uniformly good and frequently excellent. Only five are by women, but those five are genuinely exciting, and while a more diverse group of authors might be desired, the variety of ways in which these stories choose to end the world offers a great deal—nightmarish, funny, lonely, or hopeful—for the imagination.
Wonderfully written, surprisingly varied apocalyptic tales.