I can't recommend this anthology enough. It stands as a definitive collection in the sub-genre, and I have to say that Night Shade Books did an impressive job with the project. Editor John Joseph Adams has a nice eye for strong writing and clearly has read widely in the field. The text includes a recommended reading list in the back, as well as ads for some interesting titles that have been published by Night Shade.
Stephen King's story "The End of the Whole Mess" is a classic, and kicks off the fun here. I've always loved this story, and it's among the favorites of my students in our Lit. offerings at the college. The voice of the narrator, the sense of pressure to get the words down before the calmative takes effect, the loving depictions of the relationship between the brothers and the scope of the damned idea itself make this one a truly great piece of writing. I find shades of this story in lots of what I've been doing with my own short fiction, and it's been all I can do to prune them out. We'll talk favorite King stories at another date, but this one is right up there for me.
Cory Doctorow's "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth" is one I blogged about earlier in the week. It's an excellent story that you can read at www.craphound.com.
Octavia Butler's "Speech Sounds" is a jarring look at the things that are lost when we poison ourselves. It's an artfully crafted look at how language and the ability to express oneself form the cornerstone of life and civility, and how a world would look without those things.
"The End of the World as We Know It," by Dale Bailey, is a heart-wrenching tale of loss and the curse of survival. It explores the idea of loss on an individual level, and posits the theory that when we lose someone we love, we experience our own version of the end of the world. Really well written.
"How We Got in Town and Out Again," by Jonathan Lethem, is a keen discourse on virtual reality and endurance competitions. Think The Long Walk crossed with The Lawnmower Man.
The only glaring exclusion I saw was not including Lansdale's "Tiny Little Stitches on a Dead Man's Back." Otherwise, this one is golden, folks.
I'm off to Cloverfield. Ciao.