Like many parents, my reading time is at a premium, sandwiched somewhere between making a living and making a life. For this reason, I’ve been drawn to short story anthologies and audiobooks. Short stories are perfect for me because, even when I don’t have much time to read, I can usually get a whole story in. Audiobooks are wonderful, too, in that I can read while doing other things like cooking dinner, driving to pick up the teenager, or walking the dog.
Listening to an audiobook is not the same experience as reading a paper book or reading on my Kindle, but it allows me to have more stories in my life than I could find time for otherwise. A well-produced audiobook with a great narrator can deepen a reading experience and make the words on the page that much more affecting.
So, I was really excited to find the Apocalypse Triptych on Audible. It’s an ambitious project: a set of three anthologies edited by anthology king John Joseph Adams and indie-publishing star Hugh Howey. The idea is that each anthology can stand alone, but that if you read all three, several of the stories bridge the set and become one more extended story. The first and best collection, The End is Nigh, features stories set just before an impending apocalypse; the second, The End is Now, stories that take place during the apocalypse; and the third, The End Has Come, stories about what happens after the apocalypse.
There’s a good variety of apocalypse across the triptych. We’ve got widespread devastation due to illness, alien invasion, zombies, a comet, environmental degradation, genetically modified foods, A.I., and many more. The sheer variety in the way these authors ended the world was amazing, as was the diversity of setting and voice.
When it worked, it worked beautifully. My favorite story set, hands down, was the one by Seanan McGuire: Spores, Fruiting Bodies, and Resistance. Without giving too much away, I’ll say it’s a tale of love, loss, and redemption featuring a lesbian with OCD. McGuire wrote this woman so empathetically that it broke my heart. On a lighter note, I also loved Scott Sigler’s Deer Camp stories. I haven’t read many science fiction stories featuring Yupers, maybe not any besides these, and the originality of that voice and world view was fascinating.
Even when it worked less well, it was still good. The set of stories by Tananarive Due were magnificent. The first two were read by Laurice White, and I was mesmerized by the slow, soft voice she read in. It was startling when the third installment was read by someone else. Even though that narrator did a fine job, it felt jarring to have the story read so differently.
As is often the case with works in multiple parts, the project did seem to lose some steam as it moved forward. While I would still recommend the entire series, the second book is not as good as the first as a whole, and the third is not as good as the second. The whole collection lost momentum when not every story continued and new stories that are only one-shots filled in. Though many of those one-shot stories are still excellent stories individually, they broke the flow for me by not playing across all three books.
In short, if you like speculative fiction, in particular apocalyptic fiction, you will love this collection, and, if you’re an audiobook fan, this is an especially well-produced set.
Want more end-of-the-world stories? We’ve covered other similar stories in Stack Overflow.