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23 April 2010

#16 The Apocalypse Reader, Justin Taylor (Editor)

Remember a couple posts ago when I mentioned this idea about stories and the apocalypse and stuff? That idea prompted me to read this book, too. As an anthology, I was thinking that it'd be a great place to find new writers, new ideas, new stories, established greats (Poe! Gaimen! Le Guin! Hawthorne!) and so much more. It didn't exactly live up to this potential. Sure, there were authors I'd never heard of published next to classic authors and a whole book full of apocalyptic tales of all varieties, but it landed off-mark for me. There's a class of fantasy that dives way of the deep end of weird, wandering around in nonsensical realms with all the logic of a Dali painting but none of the artistry; that's how I felt about most of this book.

The stories that stood out were mainly the ones by authors whose names I knew. Neil Gaimen had a characteristically quirky piece; Nathaniel Hawthornes' story was thought-provoking but then proceeded to define all the thoughts for you; Lovecrafts' was typically cryptic and evil-in-the-shadows type. One of my favorite stories was the first part of "Apoca Ca Lyp Se: A Dip Tych" by Joyce Carol Oates. The format broke the story into two voices but one speaker. Brian Evensons' "An Accounting" was enjoyable, well-crafted and twistedly amusing, though kinda without depth. "Miss Kansas On Judgment Day" by Kelly Link was imaginative and fairly well written. I actually enjoyed Grace Auilars' "The Escape - A Tale of 1755", the story of a clandestine religion and a miraculous escape. Similar in appeal, "The Rapid Advance of Sorrow" by Theodora Goss was intriguing, well-written, a complete story among fragments.

A couple of the stories I haven't mentioned were just bad, but most were simply forgettable. Lucy Corin wrote "Sixteen Small Apocalypses", and that's exactly what they were. They weren't great. Dennis Cooper wrote "The Ash Gray Proclamation" which frankly I found pointless, confusing, driven by shock and completely unappealing. Too many stories in the collection relied on content rather than writing, and most of the content was unnecessarily sexual. Though if you took out the sex you'd be left without content, so maybe it was necessary? Either way, I didn't enjoy those. In sum, there are a few gems included in this collection, but I imagine that with a bit of searching, you could find those either on their own or in a better collection than this.

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