Review: “The End Has Come,” ed. John Joseph Adams, Hugh Howey

Rating: 5 out of 5

Book one in the triptych, The End Is Nigh, was a collection of pre-apocalyptic short stories. Book two, The End is Here, took place during the apocalyptic event(s). Now The End Has Come (The Apocalypse Triptych) (Volume 3) takes place after the apocalypse. Most of the stories are also triptychs, with one in each volume, but they’re meant to stand alone and most of them succeed surprisingly well at that. I believe the intro to this volume said that 18 of the 23 stories in here were related to previous stories.

Seanan McGuire’s “Resistance” wraps up her triptych of the fungus that took over the world. Megan is still going, immune to the mold, even though she might have preferred not to outlive her wife and daughter. She’s taken in by the military, who know an awful lot about her and are laying the blame for what happened at her feet. It’s an incredible story of two women sparring verbally and emotionally and what happens from there. I loved it; once again McGuire wrote one of my favorite stories of this volume.

Seanan McGuire has a second story in here under her pen name Mira Grant, and it’s entirely excellent. “The Happiest Place…” takes place in Disneyland. When an epidemic struck, a number of Cast Members didn’t really have anywhere else to go, nor did some customers. Amy, the highest-ranking member of the Guest Relations team still present, ends up in charge as the “mayor.” One of the generators just gave out, and Amy has to figure out how to get more parts to keep things going as long as possible. Yep, I cried at this one.

Carrie Vaughn’s “Bannerless” was an intriguing story of a civilization in which people need permission to have children, and the people who are sent to investigate the situation when a woman becomes pregnant without permission. It’s a surprisingly good story–not at all what I might have expected.

Megan Arkenberg’s “Like All Beautiful Places” takes place on a container ship anchored off of San Francisco, and includes Lena from Arkenberg’s story in volume one, and her attempt to make an immersive VR experience. It was a pretty good story.

Will McIntosh’s “Dancing with a Stranger in the Land of Nod” continues the story of the epidemic that’s paralyzing everyone. I enjoyed this installment more than the previous one. (Installment one was great; the second one just didn’t entirely appeal to me.)

Scott Sigler’s “The Seventh Day of Deer Camp” sees George responsible for ensuring the safety of the alien children. It’s better than the previous two installments; I found it harder to get emotionally invested in those parts of the story.

Sarah Langan’s “Prototype” involves a post-apocalyptic genius who designs suits for those who go above-ground and encounter the deadly sands that blow across the land. He has a pet named Rex. I was genuinely surprised and horrified by where this one went–it was quite good.

Chris Avellone’s “Acts of Creation” involves people called “Sensitives” who were in some way altered to fight a war. Now they seem to be undergoing transformations that make them even deadlier. Agnes is trying to figure out what exactly triggers these transformations. This story really captures the feel of what her subject is like.

Leife Shallcross’s “Wandering Star” is a museum’s thoughts regarding a memento quilt and little flashbacks of the apocalypse to go with it. Interesting, but kind of low-key.

Ben H. Winters brings us back to teenager Pea in “Heaven Come Down.” Pea has developed some very unusual powers, and God, who has finally started speaking to her as well, guides her in remaking her world. Only Pea starts to have questions about what God is really up to. This is an extremely satisfying conclusion to this ongoing story, with some surprises in store.

David Wellington’s “Agent Neutralized” finds CDC field agent Whitman ten years later as he searches for survivors of the apocalypse. One of the little things in this story that I like is that they don’t try to wipe out years of cultural habit of calling mindless, infected attackers “zombies,” even though these zombies are still alive.

Annie Bellet’s “Goodnight Earth” takes place well after her first two connected stories and has little obvious to connect it to them. Karron is a “War Child,” jumped up on nanomachines and used to fight a war. Now she’s hiding what she is. She and her partner Ishim have taken on two children and their parents as passengers to smuggle. Karron ends up having to make some tough decisions.

Tananarive Due’s “Carriers” returns to Nayima now that she’s in her sixties and living in a cabin, living off of the chickens she raises and some items brought by her friend, Raul. Little references give us an idea of what she’s gone through since we saw her last–as an asymptomatic carrier of the disease, she’s been treated very badly and it’s made her paranoid and bitter. This is a very rewarding story.

Robin Wasserman returns to the tale of Isaac leading his followers through the apocalypse in “In the Valley of the Shadow of the Promised Land.” He’s an old man now, and we see his descendants through his eyes… before we get a fascinating finish in which we see things through the eyes of his sons. This is my favorite of this particular triptych of stories.

Jamie Ford’s “The Uncertainty Machine” hearkens back to that deadly 1910 comet strike, as “accidental prophet” Phineas Kai Pengong waits for rescue in his underground bunker. This one is chilling!

Elizabeth Bear’s “Margin of Survival” is also chilling. Yana is trying to steal supplies to help keep her and her starving sister Yulianna alive. She encounters another woman named Yulianna in the storage room she enters.

“Jingo and the Hammerman,” by Jonathan Maberry, introduces us to the clever ways in which post-apocalyptic society has found to destroy zombies in bulk. Jingo has been reading Tony Robbins’s motivational books, and is convinced things will get better soon. His partner Moose Peters isn’t so sure. I love how quirky this one turns out to be–and yet it manages to be quite dark at the same time!

Charlie Jane Anders brings us back to the tale of wacky “actor” and stuntman Rock Manning in “The Last Movie Ever Made.” It’s almost as bizarre as the previous stories. Rock doesn’t actually want to make another movie, but absolutely everyone insists on one more.

Jake Kerr’s “The Gray Sunrise” sees Don and his son Zack attempting to escape the asteroid impact by boat. Seemingly not a lot happens, but the changes in the characters are fascinating, and I might have shed a tear or two by the end.

Ken Liu’s “The Gods Have Not Died in Vain” introduces Maddie to her online “sister,” “Mist.” In trying to help Mist understand humans, she finds out that Mist already knows a lot more than she thinks–and may not see things the way their father would have wanted.

Hugh Howey’s “In the Woods” finds April and Remy waking up from their cryo-storage unit–the one they weren’t told they were going to be put in–only to find that it’s 500 years later and all they have left is the contents of a trunk that were left for them. It’s hard to see, given what they find inside the bunker they’re in, how the power, lights, and even things like the IVs in their arms continued to function for that long, among other things. Still, it’s an intriguing continuation of the story, and I liked it better than the second part.

Nancy Kress’s “Blessings” picks up a couple generations after the previous story. The “Sweets”–people who are basically incapable of violence on any level–believe that they’ve been blessed, and the least they can do is try to help the alien Dant who did this to them. Then some outsiders come along who aren’t so pacifistic. There are some intriguing twists to this one.

On the whole, I absolutely loved this triptych. If you’re an apocalypse junkie like I am, dive on in!

Content note for a brief rape mention.

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