The End Is... Well, You Know How This Goes
So this was a neat concept. Three collections of short stories, the first collection set to the lead-up to the apocalypse (whatever form it may take), the second collection being stories during the apocalypse, and then the third collection being after the apocalypse. And, on top of it all, a good number of the authors wrote three stories, giving us a few linked trilogies within the triptych. All in all, it worked out very well.
I received the first collection, The End is Nigh, as a gift for backing Wasteland 2. One of the editors was a huge fan of the original game, and gave all Wasteland 2 backers a free copy. My original plan was to read it and not pick up the other two. That didn't work out so well. In many ways, I think the first book must have been the most difficult to write for. Post-Apocalypse is a common enough genre, and everyone's familiar with it, especially given the popularity of Mad Max: Fury Road. Likewise, setting something during an apocalypse is easy enough; it's like a disaster movie writ large. But a self contained story leading up to the apocalypse? I think that's probably the more difficult. Perhaps that's why so many authors (something like 80%) agreed to write for all three books. Maybe they figured it would be easier if there was some closure. After all, ending your story with the apocalypse feels unfinished.
I'm now almost finished with the third installment, The End Has Come, which I had to wait for because there was a Kindle-exclusive period. I can honestly say that, as a whole, this trilogy of trilogies is very, very good, especially if you like apocalyptic fiction.
Like any collection of short stories, there will be hits and there will be misses. I found the most duds in The End is Nigh, and the most solid stories were actually in The End is Now, the second collection. Some of the stories in Nigh lean a little too heavily on the author's personal politics, which I suppose is bound to happen when you're talking about the end of the world. But it still was a little grating at times as it felt like the author was more interested in their soap box than telling a good story. I believe it was Shooting the Apocalypse by Paolo Bacigalupi that was the most egregious.
Still, as a whole, very good. And I was impressed with the apocalypses, too. I had been afraid it would just be zombies, but very few of the stories used zombies, and those that did were at least creative about it; like the one where it was a prion disease and very little of the story actually involved zombies -- they were just a background threat propelling the human drama.
But no, not many zombies. We have general societal collapse, aliens, more different aliens, asteroid impact, poisonous comet trails, the freaking moon exploding, God, and quite a few non-zombie diseases. I suppose that's par for the course, considering some of the authors involved: Annie Bellet, Nancy Kress, Jonathan Maberry, Seanan McGuire, Carrie Vaughn, Chris Avellone, Hugh Howey, and so on.
And while Nancy Kress is probably my favorite of the authors who contributed three stories (and her stories were quite good and odd), my favorite in this triptych would probably have to be the Deer Camp stories by Scott Sigler. They were just... not what I expected at all. Essentially, they answered the question: "What if they threw an apocalypse and you were in the middle of freaking nowhere?" And then it just continues going off into left field as the stories progress.
My copies of these stories are all on my Nook, and I think it suffers slightly for it. I think these stories would work best in a big ole paper omnibus, where you could flip around and re-read bits of the previous stories to refresh your memory. While you can do that with an e-reader, it's far easier to do with a dead tree edition. Still, I think it's well worth picking up, especially if you like apocalyptic fiction.