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The Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse    edited by John Joseph Adams order for
by John Joseph Adams
Order:  USA  Can
Night Shade, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

This riveting collection edited by John Joseph Adams is everything post-apocalyptic. We know one day the world is going to kick it, and here's what some writers think might happen. Wastelands runs the gamut from a rapture story; to how we might survive in a dead world (even if we're disfigured mutants); to stories that may not be about the end of the world but at times certainly seem like it. Featuring a wide variety of renowned authors like Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, George R. R. Martin, Gene Wolfe, Jonathan Lethem, and Octavia E. Butler, it is a sobering collection that portrays humanity fighting for survival.

In the opening story from Stephen King, The End of the Whole Mess, when the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket fast, a unique spring is discovered in Texas which somehow makes people nicer and less violent towards each other. After this water has been concentrated and harnessed, it is emptied as rain around the world, and for a little while there is world peace. Then the cases begin and there's a terrifying realization about this water that was supposed to save humanity and has instead damned it.

In George R. R. Martin's Dark, Dark Were the Tunnels, humans return to Earth to see if there's anyone still around and are shocked to discover a devolved, primitive form of humanity living beneath the ground like animals. What they don't know is that these people possess special abilities never before seen. Jonathan Lethem reveals a world of virtual reality and shows its advantages and disadvantages. Tobias Buckwell, in Waiting for the Zephyr, describes a reformed world of simple ways and wind power and the hope of one girl to travel across the planet on the great Zephyr. Artie's Angles by Catherine Wells shows space travelers who return to Earth to discover the Rapture had happened and they had were the only ones left behind.

In the best story of the collection, When Sysadmins Ruled the World from Cory Doctorow, we see a world much like ours. On this doomed day, it suffers a terrible sickness unleashed by terrorists, and there are not many people left. But the Sysadmins, secured safely in their airtight computer buildings, struggle to keep the Internet alive. They communicate with each other through Newsgroups, and elect their own form of government via the web.

Like The Living Dead, Wastelands is a fascinating collection revealing the variety of imagination and writing skill that many of the greatest authors possess today, as well as delving into the dark recesses of humanity and uncovering some horrifying truths. Whatever you're looking for in a story about the end of the world - and whether or not we make it through - you will find something you like in this collection.

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