cover image This Way to the End Times

This Way to the End Times

Edited by Robert Silverberg. Three Rooms, $19.95 trade paper (456p) ISBN 978-1-941110-47-8

A pessimist’s dream comes true in 21 exceptional tales of Earth’s devastation and humans’ inventive, and often ironically self-destructive, ways of surviving. Themes of religion, flooding, Adam and Eve, Atlantis, aliens, misogyny, and government oppression permeate the collection, which contains works written between 1906 and 2016 by science fiction legends as well as new authors. The epic opener, Jules Verne’s “The Eternal Adam” (1910), set 20,000 years in the future, chronicles a flood covering Earth, the rise of an Atlantis-like continent, and man’s barbaric struggle to rebuild civilization. Earth is destroyed in other creative ways. In Fritz Leiber’s “A Pail of Air” (1951), after a dark star pulls Earth beyond Pluto, a family survives amid frozen oxygen and liquid helium. An Indian woman seeks enlightenment through ritual as the future collapses into the past in Alvaro Zinos-Amaro’s elegant “Prayers to the Sun” (2016). As energy sources dwindle, an Orwellian police state emerges in Ursula K. LeGuin’s “New Atlantis” (1975). Dale Bailey’s “The End of the World as We Know It” (2004) is a primer on “last man alive” clichés. The funniest story, Brian W. Aldiss’s “Heresies of the Huge God” (1966), reveals an unusual visitor to Earth that causes continental destruction, and the malevolent religion created to appease it. These stunning stories contemplate survival while questioning whether life is worth saving, and many have such rich ideas and settings that they could easily spark full-length novels. (Nov.)