This review contains spoilers for Defying Doomsday.
What If: the world ended and you had a disability or were chronically ill.
Defying Doomsday takes this “What If” scenario and explores it across fifteen short stories. Each story does this incredibly differently. This post explores four of the short stories and how they approach the scenario. You can find Part 1 here.
In the Sky with Diamonds – Elinor Caiman Sands
Megan is a war reporter, floating in space reporting on a war with an alien race. She watches on as a group of ships, including her sister’s vessel try to outrun alien invaders. Megan also have cerebral palsy and uses an AI inserted in her head called Jennifer to communicate and control her ship. The invading alien race has been raging war on humanity and stealing their diamonds.
Megan’s father was a war reporter and died from stepping on a landmine before she was born. She believes its people like him who make a difference in the world.
I find this interesting as a former journalist, I had these thoughts when I wanted to be a journalist. That finding out the truth and exposing it was a grand calling. Alas the state of journalism isn’t so great today. John Oliver recently did a piece on why investigative reporters and war correspondents are slowly disappearing. I find it interesting that this was the angle the story went with considering it is supposed to be in the future.
The character of Megan is excellent however the pacing felt a bit wrong on this story. So much time is spent describing how Megan relies on Jennifer to get around in space and communicate and her role as a journalist and her dad and her sister flying away with other survivor and yet the interesting part which Megan and the aliens speak about diamonds feels rushed. Almost like the author had to quickly end it. The concept of human’s being made out of carbon therefore being close to diamonds which the aliens revere as godlike is interesting but I felt the execution was a bit lacking.
Two Somebodies Go Hunting – Rivqa Rafael
Siblings Lexi and Jeff are sent out by their mother to go hunt down a large kangaroo in a post-apocalyptic landscape that is essentially drought stricken rural Australia. I couldn’t figure out if the world had ended or if the family were already living in rural Australia when something bad happened and they just stayed away. This story annoyed me so much but I believe it was supposed to. Lexi and Jeff spend 90% of the story fighting and I could feel my own memories of my sister annoying the hell out of me surfacing in my mind. The sheer idiocy and aggravation between siblings is so well described I spent most of the time in this story being pissed at Lexi and then at Jeff as the point of view changed. Lexi has issues with her leg that is revealed to be due to an accident she had when she was four. Jeff and Lexi were playing in the creek bed as kids and Jeff slipped and fell. Lexi caught him but landed wrong and broke her leg. For various reasons, her leg couldn’t be reset correctly and it now constantly aches years later.
The symbolism of the kangaroo as the thing causing the tension in their relationship was very well done. When the reveal comes about Lexi’s leg and the cause, a short time later the first rain in a decade comes around and Lexi and Jeff visit the creek bed that caused all the issues, now a running creek complete with fish. The story ends on a high note with the creek’s filling of water and fish symbolising their mended relationship.
Given Sufficient Desperation – Bogi Takács
Aliens took over the world and now people voluntarily help the aliens with identifying items via virtual reality helmets. Vera is one of these volunteers, she has dyspraxia and often finds herself hurt especially as the aliens don’t understand that she needs more than eight hours sleep or it makes her motor coordination issues worse.
She spends her days identifying items or hanging out with her friend Kati. One day they see a group of anarchist squatters on a nearby hill and discuss whether they should join them. The aliens technically aren’t making them stay but Vera concedes she isn’t going to be of much use and would rather stay. The passage of time is shown by lists of objects and suddenly the descriptions of the landscape become lists themselves. It is a bit jarring after the opening part of the story however it works to show a significant portion of time has passed between the beginning and the climax of the story. Vera ends up going for a walk one day and happens to coincide with a group of militants bombing the compound. A bit of information dumping later about how the attack happened (not my favourite style of writing but had to be done in this context) and the militants are recruiting Vera and Kati (who also escaped). They end up going back to the aliens as they treat them better than the bloodthirsty militant group but something has changed in Vera. Suddenly she’s listing objects and stating everything can be used as a weapon. The aliens suddenly reveal that they weren’t the aliens who bombed earth, rather they were just scavengers. Vera’s revelation that everything can be used as a weapon causes them to leave the planet.
As you can see by the very long description, a lot happened in this story. I’d say there were too many ideas in this for a short story and it feels a bit overstuffed. Great ideas but too many. I feel like you could have shown a progression from Vera identifying objects to getting angry at the monotony and starting to see everything as weapons rather than the whole plot about the militants. Perhaps it was to show the aliens were more merciful towards her than her fellow human beings but I feel like they either had to pick one of the storylines rather than try and have both.
Selected Afterimages of the Fading – John Chu
A story in second person is a rare thing to see as most writers tend to stay away from it. The use of it works quite well in this context but I don’t think I could read a whole book in this style. However, the style of this story is not the most unique thing about it. The concept is that things become translucent and blurry in this strange world and ultimately disappear. The main character, Caleb is a super perceiver which assists in the research of why things are disappearing however they also have body dysmorphia. Caleb is beginning to go translucent and another man called Latch gets into a conversation about body dysmorphia and super perceivers. Over the course of the story, Caleb and Latch do experiments relating to the fading and start feeling things for each other. This is actually a love story about a person with body dysmorphia rather than a story about the end of the world. The fading part is just in there.
This was a cool story with a great concept but I struggled to get my head around the story and the style. I felt like it would have been better without the fading part and just about two guys falling in love and overcoming body dysmorphia.
Compared to the first four stories, these ones felt a bit lacking. Except for Two Somebodies Go Hunting, all the stories felt like they had too many ideas to be fleshed out properly in a short story and felt rushed and overstuffed as a result.
Do you think that traditionally survival and post-apocalyptic stories over favour survival of the fitness rather than luck? Would you survive the apocalypse? Start a conversation below or share on social media.