Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: After

After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia
Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Published 2012 by Hyperion

From award-winning editors Datlow and Windling comes a new collection of short stories to capture our attention - today's best young adult authors take turns pondering what the world looks like "after." After what? Well, any variety of global disaster or apocalypse.

I read two short stories anthologies back to back; this was the second. It reminded me of how much I enjoy reading short stories - you get just a little snippet of a tale and are almost always left wanting, which I think is excellent. I always forget about reading short stories and anthologies, so I'm glad this one was brought to my attention. Amazingly, I've only read one other anthology edited by the award-winning duo, though many of them have caught my eye. I'm glad I didn't let this one slip past - it definitely makes me want to go out and get their other books.

As with any anthology, I had my favorites and my not-so-favorites. My favorites included:
- "The Segment": excellent way to open the anthology. This story makes you feel like you should know what's going on, but also like you're still catching up to the new rules. I thought it was a really interesting premise and I loved the blending of our society's television culture with the dystopia.

- "After the Cure": I've enjoyed Carrie Ryan's Forest of Hands and Teeth series and have been wondering what she'll do next. This story shows that she has many more tricks and ideas up her sleeve and I can't wait to discover them. I thought this was absolutely brilliant - perfectly taut and suspenseful while also striking the right emotional pitch.

- "Valedictorian": a perfect example of how wonderful it is to be left wanting more. I think this tale could definitely be fleshed out into a larger work, but I also love just getting a sneak peek at it.

- "The Other Elder": I had very little interest in the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis, you know, because of my aversion to things set in space. This is a short story set in that world (it seems a lot of young adult authors are doing this sort of thing nowadays) and it was intriguing enough that I might check out the series proper. I thought it was well-done and provided just a snapshot of a series that must be rich with its own mythology.

- "Reunion": another one where you feel like you know what's going on but also like you have no idea. This one surprised me and that is definitely a good thing. I'm a big fan of Pfeffer's Moon trilogy but I didn't like her latest novel. This story reminded me why I enjoyed her earlier titles - she has skill.

- "Faint Heart": damn you, Sarah Rees Brennan! Why do you continue to be so frustratingly amazing? This was a story where the fact that you only get a snippet is more frustrating than exciting. Brennan has got a fantastic premise here and a definite cliffhanger ending that made me wanting to know more. Brennan clearly has a wonderful imagination and excellent skills as a writer. More, please!

- "The Easthound": vague enough on the details of the world to make me curious but willing to believe it all without question. This one packed an emotional punch and I absolutely loved the voice created here.

- "You Won't Feel a Thing": I absolutely adored Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy and have been meaning to read more of his work ever since. Reading this story may have given me the kick in the pants I need. This is a story set in the same world as his novel, Shade's Children. It's stunningly written (no surprise there) and definitely made me want to know more.

- "The Marker": I've only just been introduced to Cecil Castellucci but she is consistently surprising me. She seems to be able to write anything and write it well. This was a really haunting but hopeful piece and a wonderful way to end the collection.

Overall, more hits than misses in this anthology and I have a number of authors to check out now - one of the best things about reading an anthology is discovering a new writer to love. Teens will love this one!

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy provided via NetGalley.

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