If you’ll allow me to get meta, science fiction as a genre has a history of doing more than scary or unsettling. Under the guise of invention or far-future fantasy, science fiction can tackle deeper, darker issues than a casual reader might expect. It makes you think, even as it’s raising some goosebumps.
That’s what the jury has to say about Joel Arnold’s Bedtime Stories for the Apocalypse. They’re chilling in the classic campfire story way, sure, but all the more frightening for the dark societies they posit for perhaps the not-so-far future. One theme that seems to thread through a number of the stories–“Branding Day,” “Mr. Blue,” “Harvey’s Favorite Color”–may be surveillance (in both that creepy totalitarian way and elsewise). “Shiners” and “Burrow” have something to say about trust (or lack thereof). “Padre Sapo” raises the specter of some really terrifying faith healing, and “Mr. Blue” some terrifying medical healing.
Reading time: At 65 pages, this could be polished off on a lunch break. But it’s a short story collection, not a novel, and since each individual piece does leave an unsettled feeling in the pit of the stomach–the Scattering advises breaking up the scary sci-fi diet.
Recommendation: With engaging (if dark) ideas and clean, clear prose, Bedtime Stories for the Apocalype is accessible to all audiences. And since the holidays are approaching, it might just be a conversion tool for all those haughty doubters of the powers of science fiction.
Bedtime Stories for the Apocalypse is available as an ebook at Amazon for $1.79.