Richard Salter (ed.) – World’s Collider

The Collision is the worst disaster in human history. So far…

In the near future, an experiment at the Large Hadron Collider causes an enormous explosion, known as the Collision. The blast flattens a huge chunk of central Europe and punches a massive hole in the Earth’s surface. Over the next decade, unspeakable horrors pour from the rift: vicious creatures with a taste for human flesh, a terrible scream that drives all who hear it insane, a phantom entity that feeds on fear and paranoia, and a nightmare train from the pits of hell, to name but a few. This onslaught of terror causes the collapse of civilization and threatens to wipe humanity from the planet.

World’s Collider is a unique concept in short fiction, where all eighteen original stories are part of a common narrative, recounting the disaster and its aftermath. A true novel by many voices, including Steven Savile, James Moran, Aaron Rosenberg, Trent Zelazny, Jonathan Green, Simon Kurt Unsworth, Kelly Hale, Richard Wright and a host of new talent.

Fifty million people died in the Collision. They were the lucky ones…

World’s Collider is an interesting experiment in which eighteen short stories tell one continuous story. It’s a largely successful experiment too. While the narrative is formed from a host of disparate voices, it creates an intricate whole and Salter’s made sure that the main characters’ personalities don’t shift too much between the stories and that there aren’t too many inconsistencies. The premise of the story – what if we discover what in essence are wormholes using the Hadron Collider in Geneva – is interesting and the vision of the slow apocalypse that follows is quite frightening, showing both the best and worst mankind has to offer.

The stories are told in different formats, via blog posts and comments, in journal format, as flashes of vision, in first person and third. This creates a dynamic feeling and also allows for the different writing styles to blend, so the narrative doesn’t feel too choppy. The characters are quite interesting too; the different authors capture the different ways humans cope with disaster quite well. There are several main returning characters, that of Scott Fletcher, Natalie Murphy and Joseph Tern. If Scott and Natalie are on the side of the angels – not literally, though some would have you believe differently – then Joseph Tern is the devil incarnate. He’s a full-blown psychopath, who kills people for pleasure and forms a conduit for something that is even less pleasant. Their development across the stories is not as completely as one might like, but it went further than I had expected. I would have liked to have seen more of how the years after the Collision had affected Scott and where Natalie came from before she became the hardened soldier we meet in The Coming Scream. Scattered about the narrative are several returning characters with larger or smaller parts and it’s fun to spot the connections.

Even if World’s Collider is one narrative, as with any anthology there are bound to be stories that click better with each individual reader than others. In my case, my favourite stories were Keep Calm and Carry On Parts I-IV, The Rise and Fall of the House of Ricky, What Little Boys Are Made Of, and Caught. The Keep Calm and Carry On sequence was a great look at how social media, in this case blogs, might function in an apocalypse, but also how tenuous a link it is to the outside world—once WiFi and electricity goes, you’re lost. I also liked how it gave us snap shots of the same people not at the heart of the narrative, at different points of the apocalypse. The Rise and Fall of the House of Ricky was just very fun, as I love Project Runway – yes, I watch horrible reality TV shows to turn my brain off – and I can so see this happening, a fashionista giving up their soul for fashion. It’s a creepy story, but despite that fun! What Little Boys Are Made Of broke my heart. Not just the fact that these two small children were left alone, but the way the eldest tried her best to care for her little brother knowing full well that it was almost beyond hope. One might say it was an easy play on sentimentality, but I found it well-written and I loved the voice of this little, six-year-old boy. Caught was a mixture of dread and paranoia shaken with a good bit of suicide mission and served on ice-cold cubes of creepy. I’m quite afraid of spiders and the fact that the ‘enemy’ here had taken the form of a spider gave me chills, but despite this I liked the way the relationships and interactions between the characters were drawn.

The ending is of the narrative is nebulous. While it might be the happy ending humanity hoped for, it never explicitly says so and there are some loose ends which make me wonder about a possible sequel. Because if they are not there to serve as plot hooks for a further novel, they are just very glaring loose ends. Still, as it stands World’s Collider is an engaging read, which is both scary and encouraging; humanity sinks deeply, but also shows its resilience and rises above itself. The book might not work for everyone, as it is not quite fish nor fowl due to its experimental nature, but I appreciated the concept and its execution, even if it wasn’t completely flawless. If you’re a fan of anthologies and would like to see what the form can stretch to, World’s Collider is well worth a read.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.

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