Mira Grant,
When Will You Rise: Stories to End the World
(Subterranean Press, 2012)

A cure for cancer seems to be working in human trials.

A cure for the common cold shows promise and might be ready for human trials soon.

Seems like a golden age of human healthfulness is upon us in 2014, the setting of Mira Grant's novella, Countdown, which is the bulk of this slim volume from Subterranean Press.

Those who've read the first few volumes of Grant's Newsflesh series (I haven't) already know things didn't work out that way. So the direction this story takes might have caught me offguard if the back-cover blurb didn't make it clear where this story was going.

OK, so there's no surprise. Still, it's a extremely well-told tale that maps out Grant's version of the zombie apocalypse in charming detail.

Grant -- a pseudonym for established author Seanan McGuire -- writes in brief, easily digestible chunks of 2 to 4 pages each as Dr. Daniel Wells sees great success in his cancer treatments in Denver, Colo., and Dr. Alexander Kellis sees signs of fruition on his cold-cure work with laboratory animals in Reston, Va. Then a New York columnist rants -- without any hint of fact backing his story -- that the burgeoning cure will be made available to the rich and powerful elite, and a misguided activist in Allentown, Pa., decides to raid Kellis's lab and set the airborne cure free.

The Kellis cure works as anticipated, quickly spreading through human population centers, and at first it seems like there's no cause for concern: people are getting healthier, hooray! Then it runs afoul of the Wells virus, and there are unexpected mutations when they combine.

You already know what's coming. Zombies.

You don't really see a lot of the zombie apocalypse here. This is the prelude to Grant's larger, ongoing series, and as such it might seem to end rather abruptly. As someone who hasn't read her other books, I found the last couple pages unsatisfying ... but I thoroughly enjoyed everything that led up to the sudden conclusion, and would be happy to explore further into her world.

Grant, in just over a hundred pages, creates a fully realized disaster, and readers will understand the science behind it. It's a short, punchy book that makes you want to read more.

Even shorter and punchier is "Apocalypse Scenario No. 683: The Box," the short story tagged at the end. In this story, a group of friends have a long-standing tradition of getting together for food, drinks, good company and the end of the world.

It was a game, really. At each gathering, one member of the group would pose a possible apocalypse, and the others would discuss its pros and cons.

But it's only a game. Right?

Of course, Subterranean Press provides a quality product at a price, and this slim volume -- 144 pages, scheduled for release in October of this year -- carries a $38 price tag ($25.65 through Amazon at the time I'm writing this). Whether the product is worth the price is sort of up to the state of your wallet. If you can afford it, I'd certainly recommend it.

book review by
Tom Knapp

7 July 2012

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