Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Elements of the Apocalypse
by D.L. Snell, John Sunseri and R. Thomas Riley
Publisher Permuted Press
Permuted Press’ 2010 anthology, Elements of the Apocalypse, tackles the publisher’s bread and butter subject matter—the end of the world—as caused by the four traditional elements: Fire, Air, Earth and Water. Instead of the ever popular zombie apocalypse, we’re treated to spontaneous human combustion, transformation of Earth’s atmosphere and terrain by hostile aliens, a revolt against humanity by animals and the Earth itself, and finally the inexplicable dehydration of…everything.
D.L. Snell’s “Remains” waste no time with combustion as a bus driver bursts into flames for no apparent reason. From there, the rest of the story details a descent into hopelessness and insanity of an ever-lessening group of survivors. The main characters, Dylan, Friday and Shadow are detailed and three-dimensional. Snell does a great job of conveying their paranoia, despair, fear and, in the case of one character, madness.
In John Sunseri’s “Silence in Heaven,” thousands of people have spent the last three decades living below the Earth’s surface in a series of bunkers after the planet’s biosphere and atmosphere are rendered toxic by invading aliens. The aliens are monstrous flesh- and oxygen-eating creatures with great machines converting the atmosphere. The community’s chief of security, Bess, leads a small group in their attempt to interface their scientists’ new technology with the aliens’ machines in order to reverse the damage done to the air. The sense of urgency and sacrifices for the mission move the story forward in a rapid and convincing manner, and it ends on a note that some might find predictable, but fitting nonetheless.
R. Thomas Riley’s “Phrenetic” begins with a confusing barrage of multiple viewpoints that is somewhat headache-inducing but also oddly appropriate for a world that suddenly finds itself at war with everything from zoo animals to house pets. Riley takes time to touch on some examples of humanity’s moral decline in the face of disaster before unveiling the sinister force behind the animals’ strange behavior. The idea behind this piece; humanity is harming Earth and that the planet itself may someday take action against us, isn’t unique to Riley, but the journey is half the fun, after all.
The collection couldn’t end on a better, and more despair-inducing, note than “With a Face of Golden Pleasure” by Ryan C. Thomas. The story takes place over a nine-day period of time, beginning with what seems to be a minor annoyance at first (who the hell puts back a half-drunk beer?) and progressing to all-out murder as the members of a beach community slowly come to a realization that all the water—in their cars’ radiators, in the juice they buy at the store, in the ocean—is slowly disappearing without a trace. This is easily the hardest-hitting story in the book: nothing on Earth can survive without water. Period.
Overall, there’s not a bad story in the bunch, and this book will be a great read for anyone who loves a good disaster story but could use a break from zombies.
Buy it here.
Reviewed by Lincoln Crisler
Lincoln Crisler's debut novella, WILD, is due in March from Damnation Books. He has also authored a pair of short story collections, Magick & Misery (2009, Black Bed Sheet) and Despairs & Delights (2008, Arctic Wolf). A United States Army combat veteran and non-commissioned officer, Lincoln lives in Augusta, Georgia with his wife and two of his three children. You can visit his website at www.lincolncrisler.info.