After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and DystopiaFeaturedHot
New York Times bestselling authors Gregory Maguire, Garth Nix, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Carrie Ryan, Beth Revis, and Jane Yolen are among the many popular and award-winning storytellers lending their talents to this original and spellbinding anthology.
As with any anthology that I've ever read, there were some stories I really loved, quite a few that I had no strong feelings about, and some that I loathed. That's just how it goes. The stories have a nice variety, none of them really plumbing the same ground. Some of the authors surprised me, both in good and bad ways. There wasn't much humor, but dystopian humor has always been somewhat rare.
One notable aspect of this anthology is the dearth of romance. Most of the dystopias/post-apocalyptic novels being cranked out these days have a major romance element, but that is almost entirely absent here. There are a few couples (mostly lesbian, interestingly enough) or implied romances, but the focus definitely goes to the world building in all cases.
Actually, the world building was one of my issues as well, perhaps because of the prompt. The authors were told to write of what the world is like AFTER some calamity or the switch from utopia to dystopia or whatever, not to write about the transition. As such, many authors did not bother to explain how things evolved into their particular After. The perfect example is a story I would have really liked, except that there was no reasoning behind it: "Blood Drive" by Jeffrey Ford. In "Blood Drive," gun control lost. Kids take guns to school; every single one. They have quick draw contests and all sorts of accidents when people forget to take the safety off. Unfortunately, without knowing HOW the world went from metal detectors in schools to prevent kids bringing weapons to encouraging it (even the teachers have weapons), I can't appreciate the story.
Overall, there were more stories I either didn't like or didn't care about than ones I did, which is why I'm just giving this a three. Some stories obviously would rate much higher with me, but altogether there were a number I had to suffer through. If you feel free to skip the ones that don't resonate with you, I think it's well worth reading After, because there are some amazing stories in here.
This review will be a little different since there are nineteen short stories in this book and I don't want a ridiculously long review so I shall just touch on them briefly.
The Segment by Genevieve Valentine
I really liked this story. It was about children and teenagers who are taken in and used to film "news" stories for the rich people in their destroyed society to see. They used this to get them to donate money to the causes. The story was quick and I really didn't see the ending coming!
After the Cure by Carrie Ryan
This one was my favorite. I loved the characters and the whole story behind it. Diet drug causes people to become monsters. And the monsters are rehabilitated and try to readjust to society. This story would have made a great book.
Valedictorian by N.K. Jemisin
I don't really know how I feel about this one yet. It was good but I found it to be confusing at times. I loved the topic of Artificial Intelligence though.
Visiting Nelson by Katherine Langrish
I liked the concept of this story. Drug dealers pushing a drug called Nirv that destroys the brain. This one really freaked me out, drugs are close to that point and imagine how much worse it would be if the world was destroyed??
All I Know of Freedom by Carol Emshwiller
This was another one that I really liked. A girl who was brought to the U.S. illegally runs away and finds a dog. While trying to find somewhere to go they find these religious fanatics who are leaving Earth on a spaceship because they believe it is going to end. I won't tell you how it ends but I loved the main character, she finds her best friend in her dog.?
The Other Elder by Beth Revis
Um wow! I did not see this one coming. The story is great and I loved her writing style. I can't even go into this story besides that they are on a spaceship and there are elders who rule the people. Just read it!?
The Great Game at the End of the World by Matthew Kressel
Baseball and Science Fiction fans will love this one. Two teenagers end up playing a game of baseball against creepy monsters who appear once their world was destroyed. I found myself rooting for the kids to win!?
Reunion by Susan Beth Pfeffer
This was another really good one. A Leader takes over and begins to take children from their homes. A mother and her daughter are desperately searching for the other girl who was taken. This one was a bit confusing to read at times but the end clears it up. It gets pretty emotional at parts but check it out.?
Blood Drive by Jeffrey Ford
I loved this one as well. Teenagers are required to carry guns with them their senior year of highschool. This goes wrong one day and the teenagers are dealing with the aftermath. I just found myself flipping the pages so I could find out what happened next!
Reality Girl by Richard Bowes
This one was pretty cool as well. Two women Real and Dare have a group of boys who dive into the polluted river for money from tourists, risking the fact that the river causes skin to fall off! I really hope this would never happen, that would be horrible.?
How Th'irth Wint Rong by Hapless Joey @ Homeskool.Guv by Gregory Maguire
The writing in this one bothered me. It was supposed to be like this since the boy didn't know how to spell too well but the end of the story was horrible in an Oh My God I can't believe someone would do that kind of way.?
Rust with Wings by Steven Gould
Creepy bugs that eat any metal at all. This freaked me out. I like bugs but once they start eating cars and trying to eat people's crowns and fillings they can just go away! A family tries to run from the bugs in this one and they have many close calls but you'll just have to read it to see how it all turns out.?
Faint Heart by Sarah Rees Brennan
There is a queen who is the most beautiful woman ever created....yes Created. The city holds a series of trials where the men who live in the city have to go underground and fight for their lives and for the right to be with the queen. Fighting for survival and a series of trials. It was really good and the end had a great twist!?
The Easthound by Nalo Hopkinson
From what I understand once children grow up they turn into these animal things and start to kill the other people left. This one was really good. I had to know what happened to the little group ofteenagers as they tried to stay alive. You won't see the end coming!?
Gray by Jane Yolen
Being the only poem in the book, there really isn't much to say since it is so short but I did like it.?
Before by Carolyn Dunn
This story broke my heart. It has a nice ending but the whole first part of it was dreadful. A poor teenager was taken from her home and tied up in a lab so the scientists could take her blood to try to fight a disease that they had. For some reason this girls blood saved her. I can't even really describe how fantastic the writing really is.?
Fake Plastic Trees by Caitlin R. Kiernan
This was another of my favorites. A city blocked off from the rest of the world since it was destroyed by something created in a lab that went horribly wrong. The main character goes out to explore and finds the biggest discovery she could have come across. This story is told as a flashback as the character writes about what happened to her. This one really had me wondering what was happening and if everything would turn out okay.?
You Won't Feel a Thing by Garth Nix
Children were taken by labs called dorms where they were meant to be turned into animals only for some of them to escape and band together to live. The ending for this one was so sad and made me want to cry. ?
The Marker by Cecil Castellucci
If you know anything about genetics you will know that all people have a series of codes in their DNA. For these people to survive in this world they need to either possess 3 of 4 or 4 of 4 of the preset codes or they will be "put down". A young man that becomes responsible for this task figures out something flawed in the way things are done. I honestly had no idea that this story would be as good as it was until the very end.
Overall I loved most of the stories and I really suggest you check this book out. It contains some great dystopian and apocalyptic stories.