While the title may call to mind Idris Elba’s monologue from Pacific Rim, there’s a whole lot more to Luke Melia’s new anthology, Apocalypse Cancelled, which seeks to expand on a simple but ingenious concept– what if the world was scheduled to end, and then simply didn’t? This multi-author collection takes place in a shared world wherein every major government and scientific organization agrees that a world-ending asteroid collision is only three weeks away. When the big moment comes and the asteroid misses, those still standing have to face the things they did in their presumed final days and move on with their lives however they can.
Were I to describe Apocalypse Cancelled in a single word, it would be timely. Not to be overly dramatic, but over a year into the slow chaos of the pandemic, there have definitely been a lot of “…what now?” moments that make this book so easy to connect with. It’s all about observing the tipping point where society gives way to barbarism in the wake of the end of the world and how we would collectively try to return to normal after reaching that point. While nothing as drastic has occurred in the real world as within these pages, there’s a strange catharsis to it all.
This collection is as eclectic as they come, featuring stories across several mediums ranging from more traditional short stories to comics and poetry. Even the more straightforward shorts offer unique formatting and in-text diversions, which can occasionally feel gimmicky but often add to the atmosphere of the stories. Tone, content, and themes are just as varied as the format– while there are horror stories peppered throughout there are also very hopeful stories, grief-driven pieces, and plenty of humor throughout. Having such an open concept allows Melia and his contributors to examine the idea from angles you definitely wouldn’t expect. Don’t believe me? The back of the book features a thematic warning which lists: extreme violence, graphic sexual content, suicide, strong language, drug use, spreadsheets, raccoon fornication, and a shit ton of cats.
Personally, I found that the stories that leaned less into horror were a bit more memorable overall. Once Upon An Apocalypse is emotionally heavy despite being very predictable– you know there’s a gut punch coming, but sensing it from a mile away doesn’t do much to lessen the blow. There’s a hopefulness and introspection to Cat Lovers Wanted which felt more impactful than the majority of the violence across the other titles, and it paired well with the bizarre monotonous comfort of Melia’s Business as Usual. All that said, the first longer piece in the book, Melia’s Did You Have A Nice Weekend? nicely shows off the horrific side of the failed apocalypse with graphic kills and deranged characters.
There are occasional stumbles amidst the good bits here, primarily in some of the poems and flash fiction style entries. It’s not that these bits are offensively bad (unless you’re offended by graphic sexual content, in which case skip We’re All Fucked!), it’s just that they’re often forgettable and most of them feel a little too obvious. In a collection that stakes itself on its uniqueness these occasionally too-expected pieces feel even more out of place than they normally would. Some of them help flesh out worldbuilding or make decent punchlines, but the longer pieces tend to steal the show.
Rating 7.5 out of 10 Near Misses