After I finished reading Mira Grant’s last volume in her Newsflesh trilogy about the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, I wanted to know more about the changed world resulting from the rising of the dead, and discovered some of the short stories she wrote to… fill in the corners of her post-apocalyptic world.
When the author announced she was going to publish a book that would gather all this material and a few new stories, I knew I had to read it: Mira Grant (the alter ego of UF writer Seanan McGuire) is an amazing storyteller and I was looking forward to more about this dystopian version of our world, either revisiting the older stories or enjoying the new ones.
This week I will explore
Short and brutal and sad: these are the words that best describe this story, one of those that are new to me. Each of these short tales comes with an introduction by Mira Grant, a way to set it in the bigger picture if you want – and I find these just as fascinating as the stories themselves. In here, the author delves into the mindset of those people facing the end of the world as they know it and choosing to be “a statistic”, one of the “soft costs” of a dramatic chain of events.
Everglades is set in the early days of the Rising, in a California campus besieged by the walking dead and seen through the eyes of Debbie, one of the students attending summer semester. The harsh reality of the zombie apocalypse alternates with Debbie’s recollection of one perfect summer in Florida, visiting her grandparents and going on an excursion in the Everglades with her grandfather. The man had taken Debbie to the swamp, showing her that what looked like logs in the waters were, in truth, alligators lying in wait:
“Always remember that Nature can be cruel, little girl,”said Grandpa. “Sometimes it’s what looks most harmless that hurts you the most.”
Debbie is remembering that lesson now, as the number of survivors in the campus keeps dwindling alongside their hopes of rescue: knowing, as we readers know, that salvation will not come, not in the chaotic days of the Rising, it’s not difficult to understand these people’s mindset, the uneasy mix of hope and despair, of doubt and terror. When she realizes that the alligators, like other predators out there, are more tailored for survival than human beings, that intelligence and progress and science can amount to nothing in the face of the unspeakable horror that is being visited upon the world.
These stories are not easy to read – the subject matter sees to that in no uncertain way – but at the same time they show the whole range of human emotions, of strength and frailties, that can be seen in exceptional circumstance: and Mira Grant truly excels in depicting those in her deceptively plain, but powerful, way.