Book Review: The Apocalypse Reader

Being bogged down with a final semester means it’s time to just gank something from my bookshelf and reminisce instead of finding something new, and I’ve found something from way back in the black-and-white rabbit-ear-antenna days of 2007!

The Apocalypse Reader was an anthology edited by Justin Taylor from Thunder’s Mouth Press. I grabbed this book off of a new releases shelf at Barnes & Noble during college because I’d had an assignment that required reviewing a book published in the last six months which I hadn’t already read. And it did have a pretty neat cover.


The mix of classic and contemporary authors in this anthology, at that point in my literary development, was a big step in introducing me to interesting genre fiction. Lovecraft and Poe’s names in the table of contents sold me on it, but the rest of the collection introduced me to names like Carol Emshwiller, Brian Evenson, and Theodora Goss. I think I actually have this book to thank for leading me to The Mount. Overall it’s a solid collection with great variety in the style and approach the stories take to the post-apocalypse, but two of my favorite stories here weren’t, as far as I can tell, published anywhere else.

“These Zombies are Not a Metaphor” by Jeff Goldberg is a delightfully dry flash fiction set during a zombie outbreak, following the one person who’s more concerned about actually surviving than about what the zombies may represent.

“I’m not letting you in,” I said.
“Come on, I want to eat your brains.”
“What about Jennine?”
I said, “No,” but he sensed my hesitation.
“Just give me Manny,” he said, “Please.”
“I’m going to activate the electric perimeter now.”

“Fraise, Menthe, et Poivre 1978” by Jared Hohl is a darker story, though much funnier for it. A group of survivors scavenge what food they can after society has broken down, staging (poorly-remembered) plays in an abandoned theatre to commemorate whenever one of them dies. It’s a wry twist on typical survivor stories — which tend to overlook things like nutrition and boredom when it comes to eking out an existence — and its moments of absurdity feel poignant without any it’s-a-story-about-the-healing-power-of-stories sentimentality, which has always been a personal peeve of mine.

Coming back to it several years after publication, it’s a shame to see the stories’ authors haven’t done much outside of this collection. Thunder’s Mouth Press also seems to have dissolved shortly after this anthology was published, so you’ll only be able to find this through used booksellers. But if you need just one more item to put your order over the free shipping threshold, it’s definitely an overlooked gem among the glut of post-apocalyptic fiction. Hell, if you know me in person just ask and I’ll photocopy those two stories for you.

Since stars are kind of played out, I’ll give the Apocalypse Reader four tildes out of five! ~~~~_

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