I'm back again, this time with my penultimate set of story review/blurb/things for Selfies from the End of the World. They don't stop being good today, and I hope you like what you see. As always, you can pick up a copy of Selfies from the End of the World at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
First up today is Down There by MJ Wesolowski, a strange little story about an unnamed narrator and their semi-sentient sex bot, surviving the brutal cold and killer storms of the outside world by hopping from underground bunker to underground bunker. But, haunted by the death of a father and hunted by a worldwide cult and their spider-like gods, survival for this story's hero is never as simple as staying warm. What feels like a mish-mash of odd parts at first all works together thanks to the strength of the narrator's relationship with the bot, and the mounting horror found in the bunker they open together.
One of my favorite art pieces in this collection, by Amanda Jones, is also one of the simplest visually. The page is filled with the dead-eyed face, naked neck, and bare shoulders of what appears to be a person, or an excellent facsimile of one. The clarity of the image and minimal details adorning it bring attention to the odd collection of details that do: the barcode inscribed on this person's forehead, the wires protruding from the holes in their temples, and the odd liquid that coats the top half of their face which brings to mind blood, or maybe oil, but has no obvious source. Are we looking at a person? Is it looking back at us?
Dog Years by Kristopher Triana is a story that grew on me the more I thought about it. The setting, a world in which the human race is afflicted by a condition that kills everyone of old age by the time they reach their late teens or early twenties, puts me in mind of the Star Trek episode "Miri," which has a similar premise. It's actually not a Star Trek episode I'm overly fond of, and yet I could not help loving the classic sci-fi feel of this story, and the simple tale it tells of a small family growing up too fast together in a broken, dog-eat-dog world.
Next up is Streetcleaner by Natalie Satakovski, a story that shows what happens when ignorance and innocence are broken down. Sara lives an easy life among the privileged class, unaware of the brutal sacrifices that are made by her community to protect that very ease until she meets a dissident and finds herself face to face with the horror her own father helps to enforce. From there, her natural rebellious streak kicks in, but when her curiosity is noticed by those in power it turns out that it is not her own safety that she needs to concerned with.
I feel at this point I've written a lot about the stories in this collection that grew on me in the weeks since I read them first, so it's nice to be able to write about a story that I loved immediately. The Story of After by Alexis J. Reed takes the premise of the collection and twists it just so, in that way that makes you think, "Man, I wish I had thought of that." If the premise of this collection is that these are tales of the apocalypse as reported by those who saw them firsthand, this story gives us an actual reporter whose job is to cover the galaxy's planetary catastrophes. From tectonic devastation to asteroid collisions to nuclear annihilation, Co has seen it all. What we see, though, is not simply another news report, but rather a personal report of the impact these tragedies might have on a person living under an obligation not to intervene, told in the epistolary form as Co writes updates to her wife while on location. Man, I wish I had thought of that.
In a Manner of Speaking by Charity Tahmaseb is another real favorite of mine. As far as Soshi Patel knows, she is the last person on Earth, surviving by candlelight in a shelter she can never leave. Then, one day, she begins to receive a transmission on a makeshift radio. Jatar, the voice on the other ends, knows things he should not be able to know. The connection the two grow to have builds slowly and is truly lovely in its execution, and the ultimate explanation for how Jatar knows the things he does is guaranteed to break your heart. This is a story I could go back to again and again, and again and again.
Shannon Legler's art, the last in the collection, wins by default for having feathered dinosaurs; no: feathered dinosaurs being ridden like horses. Wait. I apologize: feathered dinosaurs being ridden like horses by people who obviously need to stop for directions. That is to day, all of those things in the modern day. What in the world, I ask you, is not to like about any of that?
And, really, I kind of have to go out on domesticated feathered dinosaurs and the poor, literally lost souls who ride them. I kind of have to. Part 4, upcoming, will complete my review set of Selfies from the End of the World, at which point I am thrilled to have a guest post by Laura Davy.
You can find MJ Wesolowski at his website and on Twitter at @ConcreteKraken. More of Amanda Jones's art can be found on Tumblr under "thehauntedboy," and more of Shannon Legler's art can be found at her website.