First, I was interested in reading After because it combines two of my favorite things: short stories and dystopias. Then when I saw that it was edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, I was even more excited to read it because they have an excellent track record with fantasy and science fiction anthologies. As with most anthologies, some stories are better than others so the quality varies as you go through the book, but I definitely found more hits than misses here. Oh, and as a side note, this book is officially for ages “12 and up,” but I think that some of the stories are above most middle school students’ comprehension so I would primarily recommend this collection for high school students or adults.
As I was trying to come up with ideas for how to booktalk this book, I was torn between talking about the book as a whole and focusing on one particular story. Once in a while, I’ll find one story in an anthology that I think will be able to sell the book to a wide audience, like in my booktalk for Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link. But even though I found several stories in this anthology that could definitely merit their own booktalks, I decided that I’d rather highlight the large variety of stories in this collection so that I would be more likely to suggest a premise that might intrigue someone in my audience. And the added benefit of this booktalk? If I forget one of the sentences, THAT’S OKAY. And if I list the premises out of order, THAT’S OKAY, TOO.
How will society fall apart?
Will there be war? Will the crime rate soar out of control? Will ocean levels rise, flooding the world’s cities? Will an illness or a plague destroy the population? Will aliens from outer space attack the earth? Will people spread mutations that turn them into zombies or vampires? Will something created in a lab go horribly wrong and start destroying the world? Will the earth become so toxic that everyone will have to leave the planet? Will a mysterious event break the world into millions of pieces?
And then … after society falls apart … what happens next?