John Joseph Adams assembles a wide variety of apocalypse-related fiction in Wastelands, some of which are older than me while others are more recent. What you end up with is a diverse anthology covering topics like religion, war, and exploration while containing elements of horror, comedy, and even sense of wonder. Majority of the stories are easy to get into but there are also some subtle pieces in this book. Overall it was an enjoyable read and the selection seems balanced. Having said that, here are my top three stories: "Bread and Bombs" by M. Rickert is one of the more horrifying stories in this anthology and this is achieved through her characterization and commentary on society. It's easy to jump into Rickert's text and there is a foreboding established early on which rewards the reader by the time they reach the end. "Artie's Angels" by Catherine Wells is another favorite and the author succeeds in using a first-person narrative to tell another character's story. Again, characterization is a key strength of this piece and the ending has that perfect combination of hope and complexity. "The End of the World as We Know It" by Dale Bailey is perhaps the post-modern apocalypse story as it's one-part meta-fictional commentary and one-part anti-thesis to the conventions of the sub-genre. Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse is an interesting ensemble and there are a lot of stories that I enjoyed in this anthology at the same time. Adams succeeds when it comes to diversity and subject matter despite the seemingly specific theme.
1 - There are better ways to spend your time.
2 - Ho hum books, usually typical of its genre. Probably only recommendable to die-hard fans.
3 - A cut above the rest, usually with one or more elements that sets it apart from the norm.
4 - Highly recommended and is easily a pioneer of the genre.
5 - A classic or it will be.