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Anthology review: Out of the Ruins by Preston Grassmann

Book review: Out of the Ruins by Preston Grassmann

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ABOUT EDITOR: Preston Grassmann is a Shirley Jackson Award-nominated editor, writer, and translator. He was born in California and spent part of his life on the same block as Philip K. Dick. He began working for Locus in 1998, as one of the youngest reviewers to work at the magazine, and returned as a contributing editor after a hiatus in Egypt and the UK. His most recent work has been published in Nature Magazine, Strange Horizons, PS Publishing, Apex, Shoreline of Infinity, and Futures 2 (Tor). One of his short-stories - "Cael's Continuum" - was nominated for a Reader's Choice Award at His non-fiction work and various interviews have appeared in publications such as Nature Magazine, New York Review of Science Fiction, and Bull Spec. He is a regular contributor to Nature and currently lives in Japan, where he is working on several new projects, including a book of illustrated stories with Yoshika Nagata.

WRITERS: China MiƩville, Emily St John Mandel, Clive Barker, Carmen Maria Machado, Charlie Jane Anders, Samuel R. Delaney, Ramsey Campbell, Lavie Tidhar, Kaaron Warrern, Anna Tambour, Nina Allan, Jeffrey Thomas, Paul Di Filippo, Ron Drummond, Nikhil Singh, John Skipp, Autumn Christian, Chris Kelso, Rumi Kaneko, Nick Mamatas and D.R.G. Sugawara.

Publication date: November 09, 2021 Publisher: Solaris Page count: 448 p (paperback). Cover art by Yoshika Nagata.

OVERVIEW: Although I am not obsessed with apocalyptic ideas, I find the notion of the end of the world as we know it both fascinating and terrifying. If I had a choice, I would prefer to avoid such events altogether, but I can't help but wonder what would it look like? What would trigger it? Would it wipe us all out, or would there be survivors? And if so, what would their lives look like?

In Out of The Ruins, Grassman delivers 20 stories (including 2 poems) that offer a fresh look at post-apocalyptic tropes and themes. Most of them are introspective and literary rather than fast-paced or survivalist. I prefer them this way.

There are no throwaway stories here. Some are outstanding, others less so, but they still deserve their place in the anthology. Among the standout stories here is Emily St. John Mandel s "Mr. Thursday." Her Station Eleven is, probably, my favorite book ever, and her writing style has that wonderfully melancholic atmosphere I can't resist. I understand why some readers won't like it (slow, episodic, with no clear ending), but I adored it. What is it about? Well, it shows how one small decision can affect more than one life. 

Another story I loved was Tidhar's The Green Caravanserai that opens the anthology and delivers lots of thrills. Certainly, there are also weaker stories here, such as As Good as New by Charlie Jane Anders, which has a great premise (genie in a bottle after the apocalypse) but disappointing execution. I had high hopes for China Mieville's Watching God but I ended up feeling lukewarm about it. No idea why, to be honest; it's well written, inventive, dreamy.  
Preston Grassmann did a great job here, making sure Out of the Ruins has a fantastic mix of styles and approaches to the post-apocalyptic themes. I highly recommend Out of the Ruins to readers looking for thoughtful and touching short stories.

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