Prepper – NOUN – chiefly North American
A person who believes a catastrophic disaster or emergency is likely to occur in the future and makes active preparations for it, typically by stockpiling food, ammunition, and other supplies:there’s no agreement among preppers about what disaster is most imminent whether you’re a doomsday prepper or simply like to be prepared, emergency foods should be kept on hand
Since I’m working on Gossamer Flames, a post-apocalyptic series of interconnected tales, I’m looking for similar fiction to read, not just to see how the best fiction works, but for the details about preppers and how they behave. “Prep for Doom” was therefore a must read. So on to the review.
From the imaginations of twenty authors of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction comes PREP FOR DOOM – an integrated collection of short stories that tell the tale of a single catastrophe as experienced by many characters, some of whom will cross paths. What begins with a seemingly innocuous traffic accident soon spirals into a global pandemic. The release of Airborne Viral Hemorrhagic Fever upon New York City’s unsuspecting populace brings bloody suffering within hours, death within a day, and spreads worldwide within a month. An online community called Prep For Doom has risen to the top of a recent doomsday preparation movement. Some have written them off as crazy while others couldn’t be more serious about the safety the preppers could provide in a global disaster. But when AVHF strikes, their preparation may not be enough to save them.
“Prep For Doom” is a clever anthology by different authors, each contributing a stand-alone story connected by the pandemic apocalypse, so building into one large story from multiple points of view. The level of collaboration on this project must have been impressive, as is the resulting work.
The characters of each story reflect different reactions to the growing crisis, some more intense and visceral than others. Each protagonist takes the stage in a unique way, and plays out their fate in the disaster – some as victims, some as opportunists, even killers, and some as saviours. Some are committed preppers or have known one for good or bad. But most are ordinary people trying to survive.
Much of the time I was asking how I would react in such a situation. Panic? Help?
Each of the writers tells a facet of the story in their characters’ words. So inevitably, some stories are stronger than others, painting more vivid images. Most wrenched at my emotional responses.
Many characters reappear in other stories, whether in supporting roles or even as people in the ‘crowd’. Some get swept up as casualties, others survive and give hope. Memorably one antagonist is seen in one story from a victim’s viewpoint, yet later another writer vividly shows that antagonist’s desperation and driven fall from survivor to killer.
I wanted to give “Prep for Doom” five stars, but a few things let it down in my opinion.
Setting: although the virus spreads worldwide, we only get to see its impact on US communities, predominantly around the epicentre of New York. The opening chapter is the exception as it’s set somewhere in Africa, but I wanted a few more non-US viewpoints.
Resources: food runs out fast as does water, which makes total sense so some people are surviving on granola bars. The desperate looters feel realistic, but I kept wondering why cell phones worked for so long? Why do some people have the power to keep watching the world die on TV? For a few days perhaps, but this felt longer. Since the hospitals are swamped very quickly, I struggled to believe that some services survived for long. Maybe the emergency facilities are far better than I thought, or Americans are better prepared.
Chronology: inevitably many of the stories start at roughly the same point – the virus release – so the editors will have struggled to place them in order. Unfortunately, at times I was lost and wished there were clearer indicators of time and date in some instances. But most were clear from the words.
Stereotyping: in most cases, the race/sex/religion of the characters didn’t adversely reflect on their actions in an unrealistic way. But one crucial episode grated as the minority concerned gets a trite apology and the story gives them a raw deal. Not wishing to spoil the plot, I will say no more.
Missing elements: there were a few things left unexplained, although maybe there is more to come. For instance, I wanted to know about the initials PFD, which appear throughout and not just for Prep For Doom. Is the link a coincidence, or a reasoned choice?
However, these criticisms are minor and don’t detract from an excellent anthology that I recommend. It has the right blend of realistic actions and reactions, weaving a sense of despair as the reader is carried towards hope.
As to my own post-apocalyptic saga, I feel there are lessons to learn and I will attempt to embrace them.
And for my next read, I am tackling a very different novel in this genre – far bleaker and darker… like grey ash: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.