Review: Defying Doomsday, by Jemimah Halbert

Defying Doomsday is a Pozible-funded anthology of short stories published by the indie publishing house Twelfth Planet Press. Twelfth Planet is an organisation that seeks to ‘interrogate, commentate, inspire or provoke thought’, and to ‘raise the awareness of underrepresented voices in science fiction, fantasy, horror and… crime’. They have certainly achieved that with this anthology. Defying Doomsday is a riveting collection of short stories of individuals with disabilities or chronic illnesses surviving the apocalypse, the premise for the collection being that it’s not always the ‘fittest’ that survive; it’s about being determined, persistent and inventive.

The apocalypses vary, as do the abilities of the individuals: a fourteen year old blind girl survives for months in a lab by the ocean after a plague wipes out everyone she knows; a Deaf boy and his deadly companion raid abandoned houses for precious batteries and medication, until a new arrival divides their team; three sisters, two with cystic fibrosis, live in hope on their family farm after a plague has burnt through the country; a woman without footsteps can sneak into a deadly nest and gather precious materials to keep her family alive; a man tries to keep his perceptions and proportions in check as he falls in love in a fading world; and a woman floating in space is the only person who can communicate with the aliens attacking earth – these are only a few of the fifteen stories in the collection. The apocalypses vary from alien invasion to economic collapse to government conspiracy to plague to environmental disaster to giant spiders. One apocalypse, seemingly the most abstract and least explained, is the fading of anything that isn’t given enough attention, including humans. Each story is intense and incredibly inventive: the first few pages of each establish the nature of the apocalypse the individual must survive, and the particular abilities and durability of the protagonist. It often takes a re-read or two to understand exactly what’s happening and to whom, but it’s always worth persevering to the end. Points of view vary from first to second to third, and some stories are told from more than one point of view. Every story ends on a hopeful note, but it’s often a harrowing journey to get there. And there’s more than a little romance lurking in these pages, often in the unlikeliest of places.

This collection of stories should be on absolutely everyone’s reading list: I can’t recommend it highly enough!

You can buy copies of Defying Doomsday here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *