review by Karen Jeynes

edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin

Published by Jurassic London
PB 288 pages
RRP £14.99 (Kindle £2.48)


From Issue 17 (Jan 2012

I’ve always believed that giving writers a tight brief sparks them to greater heights of creativity and innovation, and this anthology is evidence to just that. This collection brings together a wide array of voices with writing inspired by John Martin’s apocalyptic paintings. Among the mix of contributors are South Africans Lauren Beukes, SL Grey, Charlie Human and Sam Wilson.

Martin created his extraordinary works in the 19th Century, but they wreak havoc with our imaginations still. The stories in Pandemonium certainly conjure up the same emotions as Martin’s work. You can smell the brimstone, sense the oozing despair, and yet admire the fine detailing and marvellous use of colour. And David Bryher lures us straight into the world of interplay between the underworld and art with The Architect of Hell, an all-too-plausible tale of the attractions demons hold for us.

There’s a strong sense that consumerism and materialistic things are part of our apocalyptic future.  Keeping up appearances is of utmost concern in Magnus Anderson’s Another Abyss, where the foreboding skies match the curtains. Against the backdrop of a traditional looking hell, the writers sketch scenarios where YouTube, Twitter, and other technologies play a part in our eventual unravelling. Indeed, if Sartre is right and “hell is other people”, then the level of access we’ve allowed everyone else to our lives should worry us – and it will, once you’ve read these stories. In OMG, GTFO, Grey portrays the level of nastiness that lurks in society, kept barely in check by our sense of what’s socially acceptable.

For a little balance, Charlie Human’s The Immaculate Particle explores how far love can push us, and what things we’d be willing to do to save our favourite people. While his vision of an end of days emphasizes some of the more unsavoury aspects of humanity, and will have you questioning which path you’d choose if the world descended into this particular brand of madness, he offers a strand of hope. This strand is picked up in Not the End of the World, an achingly beautiful creation by Sophia McDougall, which provides the perfect final note to the anthology.

Humour is a common thread in this anthology. And the glorious satirical brilliance of Lauren Beukes renders The Chislehurst Messiah – a tale of delusions of grandeur, and the stories that we tell ourselves to keep hell at bay a little longer. Perhaps the end of the world is merely the end of the world as we currently know it. Sam Wilson’s poetic story takes another twist entirely: if so much of the world we live in is constructed on human ideas, can we think it into different shapes? With potentially disastrous consequences? This disquieting tale reminds us of our own power, and limitations. Post-Apocalypse will definitely make you stop and consider your own choices.

Although the apocalypse and heaven and hell are distinctly Christian concepts, the writers have taken angels and demons and the concepts of good and evil to new places. You might recognise some inspiration from Gaiman and Pratchett, but one of the particular joys of fantasy writing is the way in which the genre grows together. And you’ll also see depictions of true religious goodness – and evil. The darkest realms are explored in Archie Black’s Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion and the unforgettable Deluge by Kim Laken-Smith.

One thing is for sure: none of these embodiments of Armageddon are the same, and that, for the reader, is the delight. Don’t like that version of the apocalypse? Here’s another. Each is written with its own particular brand of inspiration, and realised with flair. Feast on the hellish flights of fantasy about what happens when the world ends, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be jolted into a few moments of appreciating the here and now.


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Karen Jeynes

Karen Jeynes is a writer: of plays, tweets, television, poetry, fiction, radio, and pretty much anything people will pay her for. She has an unnatural obsession with reality television, Good Omens, and Nutella.

She lives in Cape Town, which is bloody distracting when you’re trying to hit a deadline but the city is basking in the sunshine. She has two boys who are far more entertaining than she is, and frequently teach her new shortcut keys on the computer. She’s optimistically attempting to adapt Jane Austen for her Master’s Degree. You can follow her @karenjeynes or read her occasional blog at karenjeynes.wordpress.com
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