by Maureen McHugh (2011)
After the Apocalypse has solidified Maureen McHugh as one of my favorite current authors. I recommended her novel China Mountain Zhang a while back and have only grown fonder of it over time.
Her latest, well reviewed collection of short stories is bookended by more well worn apocalyptic scenarios: zombies and refugees walking through abandoned, dangerous suburbs towards (hopefully) a safe place.
With McHugh’s unique prose (she’s got an amazing ability to speak believably from a wide range of points of view) and creative mind, even zombies can be new again.
The other stories, which take on the apocalypse in different ways, are unique, humorous, and very human. There’s a debilitating disease transmitted through chicken nuggets, a woman struggling to get by in a shattered economy by making custom baby dolls and dildoes, a boy who develops amnesia after a dirty bomb explodes in Baltimore, and a group of people that get the unnerving sudden ability to fly.
While the stories are paranoid and frightening, they’re also almost optimistic. Each one is about survival, not in a Rambo sort of way, but how normal people under horrible circumstances just manage to carry on.
I really love this book and want to run out and get more of her work. It’s been truly inspiring to me (especially as I am writing short stories myself) and I’ve even contemplated writing a fan letter (which I never do).