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2015 Stories 147 - 158

This is the first of two entries discussing the stories in the anthology THE END HAS COME, Volume 3 of the Apocalypse Triptych, edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey.  (The previous two volumes were THE END IS NEAR and THE END IS NOW. I read and reviewed most of THE END IS NEAR, but have not read THE END IS NOW. Thus, I can honestly say that I feel even the stories in this third volume that follow from the first two can be read without having had to read the previous installments.)

147. CARRIERS by Tananarive Due  When Nayima was a teen, she survived a plague that wiped out most of the human population on Earth. In early adulthood, she was identified as a Carrier of the virus and imprisoned. Now in her 60's, she lives "free" outside the secure Sacramento colony. She's considered going off the grid completely, but the colony leaders and scientists have found another game to play to keep her under their control. Due shows us through dialogue just how weary Nayima is, and how hard she struggles to keep up for her own sake the appearance of being self-sufficient. A quiet, emotional story.

148. THE LAST MOVIE EVER MADE by Charlie Jane Anders  Boston is in control of The Bandana Society and has been cordoned off by the US Army. Autuer filmmakers Rock and Sally have one last film to make if they want to survive the confrontation. The hyper-active, attention deficit disorder, frenetic pace of the first story in Anders' sequence continues here, despite the main characters no longer being innocent teens. Through Rock's eyes, Anders explores the role of film in social upheaval and the effect of film and social upheaval on the individual.

149. RESISTANCE by Seanan McGuire  In a world overrun by a lethan fungus, Doctor Megan Riley has a genetic resistance to the same fungus her own lab created.  McGuire imbues the story with an acute sense of not just loneliness but desperate loss; the main character knows the loss of her wife and child is firmly on her own shoulders. One of the things I liked about the story is that Riley does not spend the story blaming her former subordinates. McGuire also raises the question of how one can possibly make amends when one has done (purposefully or not) something horrific on a grand scale and public stage.

150. BLESSINGS by Nancy Kress   Aliens have blessed humanity with a new genetic predisposition toward pacifist and vegetarian behavior. Many of Earth's problems are now history -- but are the aliens really up to something else? Kress gives us two opposing view points by alternating the first person narration between Larry, a large settlement survivor and descendent of settlement founders, and Jake, a newcomer to the settlement. Between them (but not just a plot device) is Larry's daughter Jemma. Even though Jemma doesn't get to narrate any part of her own story, all three characters are clearly drawn and well-rounded, and the author does a wonderful job of differentiating between Larry and Jake's voices.

151. MARGIN OF SURVIVAL by Elizabeth Bear  In Bear's story, an apocalyptic event called the Eschaton has made life difficult for the survivors. Main character Yana decides to steal from a nearby shore settlement to help her sickly sister Yulianna, and encounters some unexpected detours.  A very fine, intimate character study in which the world-building is underpinning and almost subtle.

152. HEAVEN CAME DOWN by Ben H. Winters  The Voice of God convinces a whole human settlement on another planet to die off, leaving one young girl -- Pea -- with the power to rewrite the world, despite never having been able to believe in or hear God before the fateful end-days. The questions festering underneath Winters' tale of a girl with a special power are two-fold: is Pea imagining the Voice of God because she feels left behind? And if not, if it is all real, why did God choose only her to survive? I won't spoil the ending except to say that both questions are answered satisfactorily.

153. LIKE ALL BEAUTIFUL PLACES by Megan Arkenberg  A disaster has completely wiped away San Francisco. A team that includes the story's narrator works from a ship anchored in the bay, trying to recreate old San Francisco in a virtual reality setting. The narrator's personal history with the city influences her ability to imbue the VR version with the sensory characteristics it needs to feel real.

154. JINGO AND THE HAMMERMAN by Jonathan Maberry   A wonderful piece of dark humor. Post Zombie Apocalypse, a young man named Jingo takes faith in the empowerment lessons of Tony Robbins, and applies them to his current job: defending The Fence by working in concert with Moose (the Hammerman of the title) to administer a final death to the encroaching and unending horde of zombies. The pacing and the voices of Jingo and Moose keep the story light and comedic despite the description of what their job entails.

155. BANNERLESS by Carrie Vaughn  In a rebuilt and largely agrarian society, regional inspectors like Enid (close to retirement) and Bert (newly on the job) investigate claims of wrong behavior: usually murders and such but also unapproved pregnancies in homesteads that have not been granted a banner to breed. Such is the case before them with a young girl named Arem and the mystery of who got her pregnant and why it was covered up.  Vaughn gives us a pretty clear view of the society that has built up post-unnamed-apocalypse and how distrustful people still could be of authority, even when that authority's only intention is to help everyone. Vaughn also does a great job of showing how a reputation can be a tool.

156. DANCING WITH A STRANGER IN THE LAND OF NOD by Will McIntosh  The Nodding Disease traps people within their own bodies. They can digest food if fed a liquid diet, and their eyes show that they know everything that's going on around them -- but they can't move, can't interact at all. This is the second of McIntosh's stories I've read in this setting. The first one was heartbreaking, set as it was during the onset of the disease. This story takes place after the disease has become an accepted part of reality. The story focuses on Teale, a wife and mother moving her trapped family across country. She encounters Gill, a man who similarly has not given up on his wife and daughter. They move into an abandoned hotel, and the story is rife with tensions: will they or won't they hook up, take solace in each other, finally abandon their loved ones to a slow death as others have done? McIntosh threads out the tension slowly and avoiding cliches.

157. THE UNCERTAINTY MACHINE by Jamie Ford  While most of the stories in this volume are in the near or far future, Ford gives us an alternate history apocalypse hinging on the arrival in 1910 of Halley's Comet. The story is excellently claustrophobic, centering on a false prophet, Plineas, being trapped in the comet shelter his believers paid for. He's awaiting the rescue he's sure will come, interpreting the results from a predicting machine that only works if he doesn't ask questions about himself.

158. IN THE WOODS by Hugh Howey  Remy and April wake up after the end of the world with a mission: kill the people who caused it. Elise is a product of the society that has emerged since the end of the world, and her world collides with Remy and April in some unexpected ways. This was the one story in the collection, however, where I felt like I was missing something by not having read Howey's other works -- I suspect this ties to Howey's novel WOOL, and that this story's ending is more important than I have any way to understand without reading that book. (I could be wrong, but that's the impression I got.)


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