I was going to call these post-apocalyptic stories, but all are set just shortly before the apocalypse, so apocalyptic is more of an appropriate title in this instance. All three are from 'The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF' edited by Mike Ashley. This was a 99p purchase, part of last year's '12 Days of Kindle' offers. It's sat on my Kindle since, and have finally decided to dive in. I'll be reviewing more stories from this anthology in the next few weeks, but here's the first batch.
'Sleepover' by Alastair Reynolds
This story comes hot on the heals of having my first Alastair Reynolds book, Revelation Space (read my review of it here). It's quite a long short story , heading into the novella category (it took about an hour to read, so I'd estimate about 15,000 words). A billionaire inventor and businessman is put into cryogenic suspension in the mid-21st century, along with about 200,000 others, awaiting the day when medical science can make them live indefinitely which they are led to believe won't be far off. More than a century later, he is woken, but the world is far from the one he was expecting...
Okay, so this is quite a cliched idea that has been used and over-used many times before, but don't let that put you off, this is very different from any other stories with this plot device that you may have read. The future world is brilliantly conceived, it is a great concept, with a proper story and characterisation. It feels like a much longer story than it actually is, which is all credit to the author.
'Fermi and Frost' by Frederick Pohl
Frederick Pohl is one of the masters of science fiction's Golden Age. I've read his classic novel, 'Gateway', before, but this is the first time I've read one of his short stories. It's set in presumably the 1960s, when nuclear war commences between the USA & the USSR. Almost all of the world is destroyed, and more than 99% of the population die within the first few months. This story is set in one of the last pockets of survival, and it is not the place you are probably expecting.
This story is on the shortlist of the best short stories I've ever read (admittedly, so far I've not read many - I'm still at the start of my journey through the world of SF short stories). It is quite haunting and evocative, not lessened in any way by the fact that the probability of nuclear war is (for now) thankfully quite a remote one today. It is unusual in science fiction as being something of a 'what if' tale. It probably came quite close to actually happening once or twice. As well as telling a great story, it outlines one of the big theories of science and cosmology very simply and well. A fabulous short story.
'The Last Sunset' by Geoffrey A. Landis
Compared to the previous two short stories, this is quite small and small scale (or as small scale as the end of the world can be). It is a very touching and emotional tale about a young astronomer who discovers that the world is about to end within hours. It's a short short, at a guess I'd say less than 2,000 words, so quick to read and well worth it. I won't say any more because I don't want to spoil it, but it is definitely worth reading.