Review of Eric Shapiro’s “Stories for the End of the World”
Stories for the End of the World is a series of short stories interspersed with three novellas. Perhaps they are all stories for the end of the world (at least, perhaps, for those in the tales-in one form or fashion), but if you are looking for straight apocalyptic fiction, not every story here qualifies, though a few fit that category. I had read two of the short stories previously, as they appeared in two separate Undead anthologies put out by Permuted Press. All the stories here have appeared elsewhere prior to being compiled for this book. While there are two ‘zombie’ type tales here, there are not walking dead throughout the rest of this book.
The three novellas were all first person tales and each had a very distinct flavor to them. ‘Days of Allison’ takes us to a future where people can order up robots that are so similar to humans that it is virtually impossible to tell the difference. The character in the story has a robotic mate ordered up-she is supposed to be docile and in love with him, and she is neither, which makes her both threatening and intriguing to him. The comment on the cover about Eric Shapiro being the next Philip K. Dick comes from this story. It certainly is a story that has echoes of Dick’s ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ to it, with Shapiro’s own unique slant. The second novella, and my favorite story of the book, is ‘It’s Only Temporary,’ which is about knowing that the world will end and spending those last few hours on earth trying to grasp what you should do to live a life full of meaning and experiences. It was a touching story that had me thinking about it long after I was finished with it. ‘Strawberry Man’ came from the other end of the spectrum of the world coming from the end. Instead of a young man pondering on what he hadn’t been able to achieve in life, as was done with ‘It’s Only Temporary’, here there are reflections from an older man on a life full of conquests but dark secrets and horrible regrets.
The majority of these stories are told in first person, with one told in second person, which is always tricky and interesting to read (and it terrifies me-I doubt I will EVER attempt to write a story in second person). Quite a few of them were entertaining, though the internal dialog in some got a little bit long-winded here and there. Nothing that was a major gripe, but more along the lines of a pitfall that can occur in what is primarily first person narratives.
Overall, this is a very entertaining compendium of the author’s work. Some of the author’s stories were very thought provoking and at least some of it had a bizarro taste to it-especially ‘Newborn’, which was pretty surreal. I am guessing that some folks, looking for pure apocalyptic fiction, may be disappointed with this book, mostly because Shapiro takes his readers in some odd directions with some of his stories. The diversions are entertaining if you are open to them, and it is without a doubt a book that raised my eyebrow in intrigue more than once as I read it.
You can find Stories for the End of the World at: http://www.amazon.com/Stories-End-World-Eric-Shapiro/dp/1934861308/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1292382578&sr=8-1