By Maureen McHugh
Small Beer Press, $16.00, 188 pages

Everyone fears death. Oblivion. The end. That is one of the many reasons the apocalypse has so terrified and thrilled people since H.G. Wells wrote The War of the Worlds in 1898. Author Maureen F. McHugh taps into the these emotions with her short story collection After the Apocalypse.

All nine pieces compiled here are perfect. Many of them focus on the mixture of pity and fear people hold for things they consider beneath them. Whether it is fearing being hunted by an animal while pitying the fact it is not able have a conscious thought; or a programmer pitying a sentient program while fearing the backlash of its communications, these stories do not disappoint.

Two notable stories in this collection are Special Economics and The Kingdom of the Blind. The first story tells of a near-future China in which a major corporation is the main employer of many citizens. At first the company seems to be a generous benefactor, feeding and housing it employees, but soon it is realized the longer one stays with the company, the deeper in debt they become. It takes a wrench in the machinery to set things right once again. The Kingdom of the Blind is about two computer programmers who delve into a complex program when it begins to become sentient.

The only problem with After the Apocalypse is how the last couple of stories seem to dwindle compared to the others.

This book cannot be recommended highly enough, anyone interested in the apocalypse or short stories that leave the reader feeling amazed, terrified and in awe will love these stories.

Reviewed by Andrew Keyser