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After the Apocalypse
Maureen F. McHugh
Small Beer Press, 200 pages

After the Apocalypse
Maureen F. McHugh
Maureen F. McHugh was born in 1959 in southwestern Ohio. She went to college at Ohio University, then got a master's degree in English Literature from New York University. After teaching as a part-time college instructor and doing temporary office work in New York City, she moved to Shijiazhuang, China, for a year. She moved back to Ohio, met her husband, and they now live in Cleveland, Ohio.

Maureen F. McHugh Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Nekropolis
SF Site Review: Mission Child

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

What do you do next after the zombies have moved into town? After the chicken nugget epidemic, or the global economic collapse? That question or a variation thereof, is faced by every character in After the Apocalypse, the latest collection from Maureen F. McHugh.

In a way, any large enough catastrophe is an apocalypse of sorts, leaving lives altered in its wake, with survivors who still need to live in a changed world. In After the Apocalypse, those survivors are simply everyday people caught up in events, and the choices they make are as varied as human beings can be, from tragic to comic, from serious to playful, including even that oddest of characteristics, given the circumstances, hope.

Given the range of stories in After the Apocalypse, it's notable that the first story, "The Naturalist," is also the most conventionally horrific. The zombies have come, but one man's response to their presence could be even worse. Story two, "Special Economics," gives us a different twist on survival, as a teen-age girl turns a predatory corporation's methods against it, and finds a way to fight back. These two opening stories set the framework, and the rest of the collection fills in the gaps with stories of a sculptor who turns her talent and craft to new uses, a young woman who lives through a medical experiment gone awry, and a mother who uses the breakdown of society as a means to break from her own past.

After the Apocalypse comes at a time when the near future is one of the hot topics in science fiction. Paolo Bacigalupi's The Wind-Up Girl is the most celebrated example, but established writers like Ian McDonald and Robert Charles Wilson and newcomers like Ernest Cline have been examining the prospects for the next half-century and found plenty to worry about. Maureen F. McHugh's stories function as short films in the way things could go wrong soon, focusing in on a character long enough to make us care, then moving on to the next. By the end, the stories build on each other, creating one of those collections whose theme and execution, make it greater than the sum of its parts. The near future, After the Apocalypse tells us, may be calamitous in many ways, but in the end there will still be people who fear, laugh, cry, work, play, and live.

Copyright © 2012 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L. Johnson sometimes wonders just how many fictionnal apocalypses one world can stand. Greg's reviews have appeared in publications ranging from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune to the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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