Day 6: After
Summary From Goodreads:
If the melt-down, flood, plague, the third World War, new Ice Age, Rapture, alien invasion, clamp-down, meteor, or something else entirely hit today, what would tomorrow look like? Some of the biggest names in YA and adult literature answer that very question in this short story anthology, each story exploring the lives of teen protagonists raised in catastrophe’s wake—whether set in the days after the change, or decades far in the future.
I received an ARC of After which is a collection of nineteen different post-apocalyptic dystopian short stories from the awesome people at ARCycling, whom I sincerely hope will forgive this review for taking so long to surface. I had initially intended on just writing about my top three stories (because I like to focus on the positive) but I really struggled to get into this collection and an honest representation would be to do my top three most memorable ones instead (good or bad) in reverse order. I hope you enjoy!
3. Valedictorian by N.K. Jemisin
Short Summary: There was a war between humans (similar to today’s) and technology or data that had started to develop and create by itself. A firewall of sorts was set up and that is now the barrier between the humans who refuse to change and the new species. Students in high school, after their senior year, are taken by those outside the barrier (who won the battle). The bottom 10% are taken because they are the most expendable, and the number one student, or valedictorian, is taken as well.
Characters: 4/5 – The main character, Zinhle, is someone I really wanted to get behind, to be in her corner, but for someone that is supposedly the elite in her class she is remarkably clueless at the worst times.
World Building: 3/5 – It was a bit over the top for me but there were good ties to how many societies seem not to care about what happens to their more intelligent members, a prime example of this would be the American public school system which this model almost exactly replicates.
Writing: 4/5 – Great flow to the piece, some repetition was used but in this case it was done effectively.
Rating and Why it Stood Out: 4/5 – I enjoyed it but I wasn’t in love with the world that was created. This made the top three because it took me back to watching movies like the Terminator ones and because I happened to be valedictorian in my class the combination felt very nostalgic. It was a good read overall and for me just had that extra connection to make it stand out.
2. After the Cure by Carrie Ryan
Short Summary: A predictable opening as a diet drug went wrong led to mutations that spread quickly and soon large portions of the populations everywhere had been turned into beasts. The beasts traveled in packs and were unable to come into contact with any light as it would instantly burn them. Eventually the remaining humans were able to find a cure and start trying to bring back those who had been changed to normal. Many of the mutated humans survived still in the world, but the number of recovered continues to grow.
Characters: 4/5 – Vail is the main character in After the Cure and is expressed beautifully. As one of the recovered she has to learn how to live a relatively normal life. The remaining mutated creatures don’t care about her because she still has traces of the mutation in her and she doesn’t have to go to school because she is legally an adult. Her brash attitude hides her softer side from all but the secondary character, James. James is the one weak point in this story for me as he is almost a cardboard cutout type of character with just enough depth as to be salvageable.
World Building: 5/5 – Ryan quickly engrosses the reader and plunges you into this version of our world as it tries to recover from the tragedy it is still dealing with. The recovered have to deal with being branded (they have a barcode from when they were brought in as well as having a red tint to their eyes that they can’t hide in the light) and as such separated from the “pure”. There are multiple parallels to be drawn with social issues we currently deal with but I’ll let you read this one and find them for yourself!
Writing: 5/5 – The writing was very engaging and with a quick hitting style that captures your attention and with enough meaning underlying to hold it After the Cure is the highlight of After (no surprise).
Rating and Why it Stood Out: 4.5/5 – While James kept this story from getting a perfect score this was easily my favorite of the collection. It was the most compelling and least flawed, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
1. Visiting Nelson by Katherine Langrish
Short Summary: Two teenagers set off on an adventure to visit a long dead hero, one to make a wish, the other to get an answer to her question. They encounter creatures called the Hairies, humans transformed after taking to much of a drug that destroys most of their brain functionality and causes extensive hair growth all over their bodies. Can they find the tomb of the ancient hero Nelson or will they fall victim to the Hairies, or something even more sinister?
Characters: 3/5 – Mostly boring with only a few bright spots to keep them from being completely lifeless. The main character Charlie does have somewhat of a witty, or at least sarcastic, personality. Unfortunately, what little life you find in Charlie’s character is dwarfed and absorbed in the lifeless Billy who could not be more dull if the author tried. Meh.
World Building: 2/5 – Unspectacular and disjointed, it lacked any focus which made all of the descriptions shallow. I never felt any desire to learn more.
Writing: 2/5 – How to put this… Langrish chose a certain style, and is consistent with it, but it drove me insane. She gave the characters a dialect with far too many uestas and a pointless additional s at the end of a lot of the words. It felt forced and did nothing to enrich the story or make it any more believable, in fact it did quite the opposite. I’m all for dialects and such, but this one was just bad.
Rating and Why it Stood Out: 2/5 – I just couldn’t get past that dialect. Even if the story might have been engaging had regular speech been used all I could think about was wanting to sit these teens down and work on their English. This story was the tipping point in After and from then on I didn’t enjoy any of the other stories. I don’t know if I was just tainted from reading Visiting Nelson or if they honestly weren’t very good, but I blame this piece all the same. Ugh.
Overall I just was not thrilled with After. The initial few pieces were pretty good, but it was a train wreck after Visiting Nelson and I just wanted to be done with it. I had hoped for so much more from After, but it just was not to be. Oh well, on to the next book (thank goodness)! I hope you enjoyed and I’ll see you tomorrow for Day 7!