First published back in May of 2014, Alex Davis’ anthology ‘After The Fall’ homed in on one particular niche for his post-apocalyptic anthology – the fall of technology.

Instrumentum – Adam Roberts – 16 Pages
Bar employed the services of Sal Ox to break up the soil in his two fields, whilst Harlan drilled the seed holes so that he could plant the seeds deep in the soil, giving him a fighting chance of a good crop.  However, when Harlan Longfingers had his fingers broken, it put Bar in a very difficult position.  He needed to have his seeds planted that spring or else he would struggle for food later on in the year.  But ever since mankind had almost been wiped out, the use of anything remotely resembling technology had been forbidden.  But Bar knew that the man on the hill had a tool that could help him with his problem.  The question is, in accepting the man’s help, was he succumbing to the blasphemous ways of the past?...

What a way to kick start an anthology on ‘after the fall of technology’.  Religion is (quite justifying) a dominant force in stories involving the apocalypse.  It has such potential to really swing a plot.  To take a tale in whatever way the author desires.  And in his short, Roberts uses it to full effect with his religion-heavy not-so-cosy-apocalypse.  The purposeful reverting to the methods of bygone days is a wonderfully inspired concept.  The incorporation of clashing levels of belief alongside moral conflict is incredibly poignant for such a short tale.  In fact, Roberts really has achieved so much in such a short page count.  It’s intriguing, compelling and thought-provoking to the very end.  I repeat – what a way to kick start the anthology!

Hell Freezes Over – Mike Chinn – 17 Pages
Conrad hoped that the pathway in the ice that he was following had once been a motorway.  Motorways usually led to places of habitat.  And he needed somewhere dry and warm to rest up for a while.  But ever since the global ice age caught the world off guard, it was hard to make out what anything was anymore.  Life was growing scarcer amongst the unforgiving ice.  Conrad survived on what little food he could scavenge.  But what he needed now was rest.  And as luck would have it, a frozen building akin to a derelict ice castle had come into view.  But the complex holds more than just a place of shelter.  Much more…

For this second offering, author Mike Chinn utilises that classic post-apocalyptic premise involving a sudden ‘global ice age’.   Within this bleak and unrelenting backdrop we follow a lone survivor, Conrad, as he tries to stay alive, whilst pushing on through the ice and snow.  With this all set down for the reader, Chinn brings in a whole new element – a tribe of post-apocalyptic children led by a boy named Pallas.  Think ‘The Road’ (2006) meets ‘Far North’ (2009) meets ‘Lord Of The Flies’ (1954) meets ‘The Tribe’ (1999 - 2003).  For its short length, it works so goddam well.  And if that’s not enough for you, Chinn throws in a last minute ‘The Twilight Zone’ (1959 – 1964) style ending.  Superb.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme – Stephen Palmer – 14 Pages
The GM bushes of Hyde Park Hundred were serious wasp attractions.  But the Hyde Park people had measures to counteract the unwanted presence of wasps – whether they were real or a prefabricated virtual creation.  Nevertheless, it was the waspfynders function to reduce insect numbers to a minimum.  But that wasn’t why John was there.  The insect life in Hyde Park Hundred was of little concern to him.  What he wanted was the music.  He wanted to play to those who visited the park.  To be a part of a folk band.  Although first he had to join their ranks.  But something else was up.  Somehow a murder had taken place.  A life had been extinguished.  And it looked like this was an actual death, with no coming back…

WTF?!  I have little to no idea about what the hell it is that Palmer has concocted up for us.  Original it most certainly is.  Confusing – without a doubt.  But most of all its just baffling.  A vague jist of the plot can be garnered from the veritable ‘virtual world’ madness that Palmer has portrayed.  Is it post-apocalyptic?  I haven’t the foggiest.  I’m reasonably sure I’m missing a vital clue, possibly because I have absolutely no knowledge about folk music.  Perhaps that’s where I’m going wrong?  Whatever it is, Palmer’s short is as intriguing as it is confusing.  But it’s that wonderful buzz of originality about the whole story that keeps the reader entertained.  Weird but equally wonderful.

These Blasted Lands – Amelia Mangan – 16 Pages
Built at the furthest edge of the Desert of Glass, The False City was a soulless place which had never held a population other than for one man.  Cassius Somnambulus Stone spent his days within the one real building in the entire – the church.  Adorned across the walls of the many buildings leading to the church, his great sigil could be seen.  The very same symbol that was carved into the withered flesh of Stone’s forehead.  But the priest’s faith is put to the ultimate test when he finds a young outcast Dogskirt girl hiding out in this loneliest of locations.  Fate has a funny way of twisting itself in knots…

As grande as it sounds, Managan’s short reads like the latter chapters of M. P. Shiel’s ‘The Purple Cloud’ (1901) had it been written by H.P. Lovecraft.  In fact, this weirdly messed-up short utilises a strangely Dagon-esque religion as the focal point for this lonely post-apocalyptic setting, in order to really throw the proverbial sheep to the wolves.  Expect to be clawing around for clues as to where the tale is going.  After all, you can feel that there’s a very definite direction that you’re being led in, it’s just damn hard to make any sense of where it is.  If truth be told, this anthology is getting pretty odd to say the least.

As They Get Warmer, They Give A Little – Caren Gussoff – 10 Pages
Zack Leven is pretty happy with how the Sims is looking.  A few little tweaks here and there, but all in all it all looks darn good – especially the receptionist.  And he didn’t feel an ounce of guilt for doing it in work.  After all, if his superior hacking skills were merely going to be wasted at helpdesk, how could he be expected to resist exploiting cache vulnerabilities?  But when his Manager catches up with Zack, questioning him on his work, it quickly becomes apparent that something’s gone wrong.  Something was in the firmware and it was working its way through the script, deleting as it went.  And as it did, so the things around Zack began to disappear…

Surreal.  I repeat - this anthology is just getting weirder by the minute.  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how this virtual reality weirdness fits in with the whole ‘after the fall of technology’ concept.  It’s got that whole ‘failing technology’ story to it, but a self-deleting virtual reality is hardly Armageddon is it?!  Unless I’m very much mistaken, Gussoff’s comical jaunt into a geek-friendly virtual world is more about the whimsical fate of our hapless protagonist than anything remotely apocalyptic.  But for its oddness and charmingly geeky originality it nevertheless finds its own place in the anthology.

Cornucopia – Ed Ahern – 11 Pages
It wasn’t until his online buddy, Marty, mentioned the impending coronal mass ejection to him that Harry found out about the mind-blowing situation that was now upon them.  It was reported that it would be like a massive solar flare, only much worse.  However, they were also saying that it could temporarily knock out everyone’s interfaces.  Like everyone else, Henry relied on his interface for everything.  From food, to warmth, to the use of his sanitary devices – if Henry’s interface went down then he was left with nothing.  In fact, not since the twenty-first century have people kept stocks of food and water.  All of their day-to-day appliances relied on the interface being functional.  Having it knocked out, even if it’s only for a temporary period, would have truly worrying repercussions…

For Ed Ahern’s contribution we’re flung into a technology-dependent future whereby absolutely every day-to-day appliance that we’re used to is controlled by one ultra-sophisticated interface.  The ‘all-your-futuristic-eggs-in-one-basket’ concept’s not exactly bursting with originality – think ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968) - however, what really stands out in the short is Ahern’s little ‘technological predictions’ which he slips in all over the shop.  In fact, reading ‘Cornucopia’ you can’t help but feel that the author might well be pretty darn right about many of his conceptual ideas.  The story itself is quite run-of-the-mill stuff, but it’s the environment that the short’s set in that really makes the story.  Thoroughly entertaining stuff.  And really quite thought-provoking.

The Unbinding – M. P. Neal – 6 Pages
Even before the Fall, bionics had been declared androids and stripped of all human rights.  Then, they were blamed for the Fall.  And so they were hunted down when all technology was banned.  Mankind had to unbind the bionic plague.  Now, after all these years, the High Priestess was still cleansing the world.  Some managed to survive the unbinding if it was just an arm or leg that was removed.  But for many, the consequences of the ceremony of cleansing was to prove fatal.    But in the eyes of those untouched by bionics it was a necessary evil.  There is no flesh but God’s flesh.  There is no light but God’s light…

Short and gritty, M. P. Neal’s dystopian vision of a world recoiling from a technological plague is as bleak as it is brutal.  And those additional suggestions of a religious angle to the whole turn in events only furthers the unnerving atmosphere.  In fact, Neal has achieved an unnerving coldness with her short that escalates and mutates into a nerve-shredding tension as it nears the short story’s conclusion.  Strangely the short doesn’t really end with much finality, but instead seems to come to a point that appears a reasonable place to leave the dystopian nightmare for a while.  Indeed there seems much more to be said and seen about this grim future of Neal’s, but perhaps now is just not the time for it.

Patience – Simon Sylvester – 3 Pages
Moving to the countryside seemed like the right thing to do.  After all, the city had become a very hard place to live since it all happened.  And the cottage on the hill seemed like an idyllic place to end up.  So that was where he ended up.  Playing Patience whilst listening to the static on the radio…

There’s not much in Simon Sylvester’s short other than a bleak last-man-alive atmosphere.  The prose is suggestive but foggy with a dreamlike vagueness to how our narrator’s final lonesome days are spent.  The atmosphere and emotive presentation works, especially with the short life of the piece.  But still you can’t help but come away feeling a little too empty from reading it.

Maglev – L. D. Lapinski – 4 Pages
For years the town had lived with the beast circling above them.  For Gastion Trent, the threat that the dragon brought down upon them seemed unavoidable.  Inevitable.  Something that he simply accepted.  However the rest of the town had gradually become complacent about the dragon.  And then the fire came down from the sky, leaving the town a smouldering shell of its former self.  And with that the fear was back.  But for Gastion, the monster had become something he had to confront.  Something he had to see for himself…up close…

Well, I didn’t see that coming.  L. D. Lapinski’s offering reads like a reasonably run-of-the-mill fantasy piece, with a terrifying dragon looming over a cowering town.  However, Lapinski has a secret up her sleeve.  The prose utilised for the short is short and almost poetic with its by-gone-days charm.  However the real beauty in the short is with the sudden and entirely unexpected twist ending which makes you revaluate the entire story.  L. D. Lapinski - for keeping us complacent readers on our toes, I wholeheartedly salute you.

A City Of Shattered Glass – Megan Chee – 8 Pages
As soon as she turned fifteen she put herself forward as a scout for the hamlet.  After all, she was strong.  She knew what she was doing.  She knew she was a survivor.  And she had Brandon to watch out for her.  And he also knew what he was doing.  He was old enough to remember the Earth before the Collapse.  And so he saw how the dogs had changed.  He saw when they broke free of their cages and began to attack.  Now they were no longer dogs in his eyes.  They were the threat.  In the ravaged concrete remains of what was once their world, the dogs were now the enemy…

Without a doubt the highlight of the anthology so far.  Bleak, oppressive, cruel, unforgiving, and utterly hostile – Megan Chee’s contribution hits every button square on; delivering a powerful and captivating story set over a textbook post-apocalyptic backdrop.  Think James Herbert’s ‘Domain’ (1984), but with savage flesh-hungry dogs as the threat instead of giant black rats.  This is one bastard of an intense read.  It’s incredible how much Chee has crammed into so few pages.  In such a short space of time you feel connected to our young protagonist.  You feel a part of what’s left of the world.  And you manage to feel the hardship, the pain, and the longing for something more out of life.  This is what post-apocalyptic fiction is all about.

Waiting For Google – David Hartley – 6 Pages
After the scientists had found a way of stopping the diseases, everyone became lazy with what they ate and what they allowed their bodies to come into contact with.  After all, nothing could touch them now.  Or so they thought.  Now it was all over.  Everything had changed.  For Usbogan and Videmeer life was a bleak and unpredictable one.  But with a little ingenuity they could link themselves back up with the past.  With a little effort, they could reconnect with Google…

From Megan Chee’s powerfully evocative post-apocalyptic story, we’re once again flung back into the strange quagmire of the weird and downright bizarre; this time with David Hartley’s contemporary tongue-in-cheek vision which (if I’m honest) is more perplexing than it is either entertaining or interesting.  Hartley, (undoubtedly quite purposefully) keeps the setting and ultimate aim of the story incredibly vague, forcing the reader to gather up what little information they can from the dialogue-driven text.  It’s odd, unclear, and ultimately quite frustrating.  That is, unless I’m totally missing something here!

The Black Glass – Andrew Kells – 9 Pages
Mad Alice was well known in West Field.  It wasn’t just because she lived in a cave above the square pond.  It wasn’t necessarily because she never bought anything from the market either.  The real reason was that the dwellers of West Field laughed at her stories about how she talked to people through her Black Glass.  She would talk so much about the Black Glass.  How she could see those people who were so very far away in it.  To her it was a wondrous mystery.  But no one believed her.  No one liked her mad stories.  No one except me…

What starts out as quite an intriguing little story about what appears to be a mad old woman, soon loses its interest as the crucial twist becomes all too apparent to the reader.  In fact, the pivotal ‘secret’ holding everything together is so painfully obvious from the very first page or so, that the short quickly becomes an endurance test of jaw-clenching frustration.  Kells’ writing ability is solid and engaging in itself, it’s just that the short relied far too much on an idea that put too much weight on a luring mystery that could be solved far too early on.  Shame.

The Campfire – Helen Ellwood – 5 Pages
Nicky had gone up to the Weaver Hills in order to see the aurora.  As an astronomer, for her to witness such an extraordinary natural display so far south was an event that Nicky couldn’t miss.  But something had gone terribly wrong.  And she saw it all happen from her vantage point up on the hill.  The darkness was like a thick black blanket descending upon the Earth.  And with that she knew nothing would be the same again…

Sharing a number of similarities to the early chapters of John Wyndham’s post-apocalyptic classic ‘The Day Of The Triffids’ (1951), Helen Ellwood’s short is one set at the moment when everything goes badly wrong and mankind’s (probable) apocalyptic descent begins.  However, instead of taking a step back and looking at the catastrophe from a larger perspective, Ellwood instead zooms in to one particular individual and her conversation with two hippies who have no comprehension surrounding the magnitude of what has just occurred.  Laced with tongue-in-cheek black humour, the story plays with the almost slapstick frustration of our lead character as she tries desperately to get two diehard protesters to understand what has befallen the entire race.  Not a bad little story at all.

East – Cameron Suey – 12 Pages
It had only been a month since the lights first went out.  A blazing meteor passing over head and disappearing beyond the horizon marking the beginning of the end. After that, no one knew what was coming.  Everyone waited to see what would come next.  But this was not an interruption but a terminus.  Since that day, life had become a relentless struggle.  As The Storm moved across the land, swallowing up the landscape as it Unmade the world, its inhabitants began their final migration eastwards.  Everyone knew that their days were numbered.  But even in these final days, it was still a dog-eat-dog world…

And here we have the second truly outstanding contribution to the anthology.  This is the apocalypse in all its full-blown epic proportions.  Days are numbered.  The absolute desperation in everyone is almost palpable.  Suey includes just the right amount of the unexplained in there.  It’s got that whole ‘The Purple Cloud’ (1901) epic vibe going on.  And my god does Suey’s vision of Armageddon scare the living shit out of you.

Then And Now – Delphine Boswell – 4 Pages
The Technology Exterminators gave everyone ninety days warning to get themselves organised.  Once that ninety days was up, all technological devices and equipment had to be destroyed by means of a communal fire pit designated for the purpose.  Failure to do this would result in arrest with a capital punishment sentence.  It was a strict ruling.  One that Muriel and her teenage son, River, couldn’t understand at the time.  But they cast their technological devices into the fire anyway.  Only time would tell how this relatively simple act would change each one of their lives for good…

One gets the feeling that Delphine’s a bit of a hippy at heart.  You could imagine her sitting down to an episode of Terry Nation’s ‘Survivors’ (1976) and thinking “if only…”.  It’s an interesting little short story.  And it’s quite refreshing to see a different angle utilised.  Although, other than the relative surprise of the general direction in which the author takes her tale, there’s very little else in it.  But then again, it’s only four pages worth, so what do you expect?!

Hyperion – Rob Sanders – 5 Pages
Yung-sun was concerned.  Ever since the sun had scorched the world brown, everything on the planet had changed.  There were a million questions to ask.  What was in store for them?  What is it that the future holds?  Chanter has some answers.  But only time will really tell…

Okay, so I admit I have pretty much no clue about what the hell author Rob Sanders has written about.  Over ten years’ worth of online reviewing and I’ve never been so stuck with what to put in a brief synopsis.  I literally have no clue about what Sanders has written.  The entire length of the short is written in some incredibly frustrating faux-bad-English/text talk/messed-up Pidgin English.  It’s pretty much undecipherable.  Well, perhaps if I really put my mind into working out every word, every sentence, everything that is being said, then I might be able to eventually fathom some loose understanding.  But I honestly don’t care enough.  My attention was gone within minutes of starting the ‘story’.  My honest opinion – a waste of paper and ink.  Sorry!

Old Sheets For Dirty Jobs – Daniel Carpenter – 6 Pages
After his mother died, he packed up some bags, and together with his wife and daughter, headed out to the house that he had grown-up in.  The house in the countryside that had been his mother’s home up until she died.  A place full of memories.  A place that would reconnect him with his mother.  A place that still clung to all those forgotten things from the past.  It was everywhere.  Technology…

Daniel Carpenter’s short story is an emotionally-charged slice of post-technology sadness, similar to Delphine Boswell’s earlier short, but with a great sense of loss for a loved one supporting the story’s backbone.  Written with a subtleness that does the story proud, Carpenter has penned a quiet and purposefully unambitious tale that touches the reader rather the pounces upon them.  For me it worked.  It showed that strong human element in complete juxtaposition to the technology that has been such a predominant part of the entire anthology.  And at the end of the story I smiled.

Sunburst Finish – Allen Ashley – 12 Pages
Following an unexpected solar eruption, a damaging and potentially fatal shifting in Earth’s polarity and magnetosphere took place resulting in all of the world’s technology gradually breaking down.  For Gordon, like with the majority of society, it’s a case of keep calm and wait to see what happens.  Although most people can guess what’s likely to happen.  Slowly but surely, as their technology fails them, mankind will be pushed back into the lifestyles of bygone days.  The question is, how far will they be reverted backwards?...

Another utterly compelling and entertaining read.   Allen Ashley’s short reads like a condensed reimagining of David Moody’s apocalyptic love story ‘Straight To You’ (1996) - with its massive flare from the sun knocking out the world’s technology.  A great sense of accepting the inevitable comes across from the outset.  Indeed, there’s something wonderfully British about the whole ‘keep calm and carry on’ that’s reflected through much of the tale.   But it seems only the first chapter in a much bigger story.  But where the tale goes from here is left to play out in the reader’s mind.  You’ve just got to love it.

From One Patch Of Glowing Light To Another – Gary Bugden – 6 Pages
When talk of the Network reached Mast Village the Elders warned everyone to keep away from it.  But forbidding access to a place that was shrouded in such mystery only furthered young Owen’s desire to see it.  However, when the traders turned up at the village, Owen’s curiosity was given a final shove.  It came from a chance meeting with a girl named Angel who was with the traders that day.  A suggestion to come to the Network so that they could speak again.  And once he got there, he was told to just go online…stay white….and check her wall…

Crammed to the rafters with clever playing on words, symbolism and cunning analogies about our online cyber-world, Gary Bugden’s contribution to the ‘fall of technology’ anthology is indeed an interesting one.  Written in a similar vein to Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’ (1996) insomuch as it takes ‘modern-day terms’ and reinvents them through their literal translations, the short is a cunningly contrived vision with a hint of a social commentary lurking behind the witty play on words.  At the end of the day, it’s short and sweet and doesn’t outdo its welcome.

There Is A Light And It Never Goes Out – Emma Lannie – 3 Pages
He wanted to be wherever the girl was.  And so, when he was asked if he wanted to accompany them to Nick’s house, he simply dropped his stick into the water and followed them along the towpath. At Nick’s house that his world was made just that little bit brighter.  Not through love, or companionship, but through the rekindling of a past that had once been taken for granted…

Author Emma Lannie ends the anthology on a touching and heart-warming note.  Her small little addition to the collection holds a careful and wistful tone, which brings the book to a rather poignant end.  Is technology our friend, our tool, or our ultimate undoing?  It’s nice to see the anthology concluding with Lannie’s final thoughts about how some things we take for granted are so very, very precious.

The collection runs for a total of 173 pages.

© DLS Reviews

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W XYZ VARIOUS NON-FICTION

Make a Free Website with Yola.