These days it seems like we're all expecting the world to end in a zombie apocalypse. The living dead genre is thriving like never before, and it feels like zombies have completely shoved old-fashioned world-enders like comets, nukes and deities out of the running. While I enjoy a good zombie story as much as the next guy, I feel like there's still room for tales about death raining down on us from above, or a psychopath with some stolen missile codes and a hankering for a full-planet cleanse.
John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey must have felt the same way, because their new collection The End is Nigh delivers the "endtimes" in a wide variety of ways. It's the opening volume of "The Apocalypse Triptych," a series of three anthologies focusing on the three stages of the apocalypse: before (The End is Nigh), during (The End is Now) and after (The End Has Come). It's a great way to bring fresh new perspectives to a type of story that's been told for as long as storytelling has been around and, if this first volume is any indication, the "Triptych" is destined to be a favorite among end-of-the-world enthusiasts.
The assembled authors bring a lot of variety to the table, wiping out mankind with methods ranging from asteroids to disease to government-implanted nanobots to genetically-engineered fruit to aliens. There are stories that focus on large-scale, world-wide destruction and others that zero in on single families. In many cases these stories are all the more devastating because of the nature of this volume of the "Triptych." We get to see many of these characters taken from their normal, everyday lives right up to the brink of Armageddon, and that's the type of story that, in my opinion, is easiest to relate to. We're all here right now with things humming along just fine – but who knows what tomorrow is going to bring?
As with any collection, there are some stories that worked well and others that fall a little flat. The End is Nigh tips the scale deeply toward the former, however. "Goodnight Moon," which details the last few days of a group of astronauts stranded far away from earth as death hurtles close, is a quietly devastating piece; "Dancing with Death in the Land of Nod" by Will McIntosh is another. McIntosh's tale follows two people as they help their neighbors suffer through the final days of a debilitating disease with as much comfort and dignity as they can muster, all the while waiting to see if their own apparent immunity is going to hold out, and it's amazing in its ability to somehow find hope amid so much despair.
Adams and Howey have set the bar high, and I'm anxious to see if they can maintain the same kind of quality and variety in the next two volumes of the "Triptych." The End is Now is scheduled for release on September 1, 2014, followed by The End Has Come on March 1, 2015. The world damn well better not end before then.
The End is Nigh edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey is now available from Broad Reach Publishing.
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.