Sometimes, you pick up a book because it fits into a genre that you adore. Sometimes, you pick up a book because you know the author or authors, and can reasonably assume that you’ll like this one too. Sometimes, both apply. Such was the case for me with Grave Predictions: Tales of Mankind’s Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian and Disastrous Destiny.
Let me tell you something about myself: I love post-apocalyptic literature, particularly post-apocalyptic short stories. Not because I enjoy reading (or thinking) about nearly everybody dying a terrible death, but because I love possibilities. There are few scenarios that involve more change (or potential) than can be found in a good piece of post-apocalyptic fiction. When civilization falls, everything is upended. Things change. Old rules are altered forever. That’s why I like stories like the ones in this collection.
Just so you’re aware, I got a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
Like I said, I like this genre. I seek out collections of this sort far and wide. The Apocalypse Triptych is my favorite example–three collections, one taking place before apocalyptic scenarios, one taking place during them, and one after the fact. I strongly urge you to pick those three up if you’re looking for short fiction in this vein.
The second reason for picking up a book that I’d mentioned earlier, knowing the author or authors, also applied to this collection for me. Harlan Ellison did the foreword, and I’m (obviously) acquainted with others represented here, including Greg Bear, Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Joe R. Lansdale, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. CLarke, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Sounds like a great list of folks, right? And it definitely is.
But the problem with this collection, for me, is that the stories I truly enjoyed in this book were by and large stories that I’d enjoyed elsewhere, in earlier anthologies. King’s contribution, “The End of the Whole Mess”, is the perfect example of that problem. If you’re a fan of apocalyptic fiction, odds are that you’ve read that story in multiple other collections over the years. I think I’ve probably read it nine or ten times by now. Does that mean it isn’t a brilliant story? Of course not–I really enjoy it, which is why I’ve read it nine or ten times! It tells the tragic tale of a man who accidentally brings about, well, the end of the whole mess, all because of a well-intentioned attempt at tackling the problem of human aggression and violence. It never fails to make me sit back and think, as the best King stories do.
Clarke’s story, “No Morning After”, is also a lovely little piece of fiction, about the monumental efforts an alien race goes through to warn us of our impending doom (only to find that the one man they make contact with doesn’t care all that much). Again, like “The End of the Whole Mess”, this story has made the rounds for quite a while. In fact, it was first published in 1954, and has been in many anthologies over the past fifty years. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, just not exactly a rarity.
Carmen Maria Machado’s offering, “Inventory”, was my favorite pick from the collection (and, not coincidentally, one of the stories that I’d never encountered in the past). It’s an account of the events taking place during and after a viral pandemic, told through the lens of relationships had by the narrator. While it’s a melancholy piece, it had a very lyrical quality to it, and left me wanting more when it ended (like all good narratives). I really, really enjoyed that one.
The rest of the anthology is a mixed bag, with some pieces dragging on a bit and others perking me up again. Is this a good collection of post-apocalyptic fiction? Sure. Is it something that I’d read again? I’d have to say no. It just has too many reprints for my taste, especially for someone such as myself who has long been a connoisseur of this genre. If you haven’t read much of this type of collection before, it’s probably worth picking up. It’s got more than enough high points to make it worth your while. For me, though, I’ve got multiple copies of most of these stories in other anthologies. I’m going to give it a 70%.
Thanks for reading! If you’d like to pick Grave Predictions up, here’s a link.