Short Story Collection Review - Wastelands 2: More Stories of the Apocalypse
Wastelands 2: More Stories of the Apocalypse
Edited by John Joseph Adams, 2015, 336 pages.
TLDR: 4 out of 5 for being a solid collection of wastelandia, though not as strong as the first volume.
This is a collection of short stories by renowned anthologist John Joseph Adams. I've enjoyed a few of his previous anthologies very much, including the first Wastelands and (my personal favourite) Brave New World which is an anthology of dystopian fiction. So naturally I was eager to jump into this one. Unlike the others, which I read, I purchased this one from Audible and listened to it.
As an anthology, this book is quite strong. It features a wide diversity of authors, both old and new, and of different cultural backgrounds. The stories themselves also vary widely in style. Some are delivered through straight-up storytelling (and from quite a variety of viewpoints), while others take unusual formats, such as the form of a multiple-choice test or a Wikipedia article. And naturally, I didn't enjoy them all equally. My overall impression of the quality of the stories is good, but I feel this collection isn't quite a strong as the first one. This collection is a little more tongue-in-cheek, where the first was more sincerely wastelandy, which is how I like it. Still, there are some strong authors in here, and something for everyone: Paolo Bacigalupi, Hugh Howey, George R.R. Martin, Jack MecDevitt, Cory Doctorow, Orson Scott Card, David Brin, Nancy Kress, and Robert Silverberg, to name the most famous.
The real standout for me was David Brin's The Postman. Now, I always understood The Postman to be a novel (and one of the best of the genre), but this is presented as a short story. It's probably an excerpt (and certainly doesn't approach the scope of the movie) but it comes across as very effectively self-contained. In the short story, the main character is robbed and flees, discovers a dead postman in his truck and steals his things to sell. He visits a settlement and, by accident, discovers that there is potential power in the symbolism associated with a federal mail carrier. It ends when stands outside the gates of a second community, and discovers that he can harness that power to his advantage. It's the kind of PA that I like - a sort of gritty western, dog-eat-dog world with pockets of true community, where each community wonders if there are others like them. Brin does a great job of demonstrating the power of hope, and of organization. The symbology isn't blatant, but I can see parallels with early Christian missionaries after the fall of Rome, moving across Europe and spreading hope. That kind of metaphor gives the story a wider meaning, which I appreciate. And it's well told, too.
So, overall, I'd recommend this book, though not quite as highly as the other books mentioned above (Wastelands, and Brave New World, by John Joseph Adams and The Postman by David Brin.) 4 out of 5 for this collection.