Book Report Corner

by Sabitha F.

Out of the Ruins, edited by Preston Grassman.

What a generic title. I have to keep looking it up, every time I tell anyone about it, because it just drops out of my head. In fairness, I suspect that there are only so many titles one can have for post-apocalyptic anthologies. There were two other recent post-apocalyptic anthologies that I loved enough that I wanted to buy them, and I still can’t remember which one was which based on the titles, so I can hardly fault the editor on this.

That said, the concept itself is anything but generic. In many ways, this collection of stories is closer to the original Greek meaning of apokalypsis: revelation, not merely destruction. Its tagline (can books have taglines?) is “What would you save from the fire?”, and it focuses on salvage, change, and reconstruction, even in the darkest of times.

All of the stories are about surviving and rebuilding after various sorts of apocalypses—a topic we really ought to talk about more often under the circumstances. We all know the Mad Max fantasy of riding around in ramshackle vehicles and shooting at warlords, and I respect that, but even leather bikers need to eat eventually, and someone has to grow the food. So what does life after the end look like?

The authors range from living legends, including Samuel R. Delaney, Ramsey Campbell, and Clive Barker to newer talents like Anna Tambour and Charlie Jane Anders. China Miéville’s in it, and honestly, I’d have bought it just because I automatically buy anything he writes. Like any short story anthology, it’s uneven in quality, but there are more hits than misses.

My favourite, somewhat unsurprisingly, was Nick Mamatas’ “The Man You Flee At Parties,” which is a weird, inventive tale about future economies and the darker side of utopia. The post-apocalyptic world he depicts is in many ways an improvement over what currently exists, despite its violent birth and the violence required to maintain it, but it never feels unrealistic or unachievable.

If the current apocalypse has you burned out on reading post-apocalyptic literature, this collection might just be the breath of fresh air through your respirator that you’ve been waiting for.

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