Each story is anchored, at its heart, in what it means to be human: grief, loss, pain and love. A young woman is faced with a difficult choice about her pregnancy in a community ravaged by doubt. An engineer working on a solar shield protecting the Earth shares memories of their lover with an AI companion. Two archivists must decide what is worth saving when the world is flooded by rising sea levels. In a heavily policed state that preferences the human and punishes the different, a mother gives herself up to save her transgenic child.
These transformative stories are both epic and granular, and forever astonishing in their imaginative detail, sense of revelation and emotional connection. They herald the arrival of a stunning new voice.
Else Fitzgerald’s short story collection Everything Feels Like the End of the World is a series of compact speculative fiction tales exploring possible futures in Australia – some settings don’t seem too far removed from our present life, but others are vastly different and set thousands of years into an unrecognisable future.
God, I really appreciated the brevity of some of these stories – at just 250 pages, this book has thirty-seven stories and they’re all just as rich and engrossing as each other. Jumping through different stories at quite a fast pace is actually a really refreshing read, so many short story collections have substantial (and therefore few in number) stories, and as a result, the pacing can lull a little in the middle. I loved the structure of this book and the order of the stories, which worked together cohesively across the course of the book.
“Out over the edge of the rooftop the reddish sun is sinking, its brightness so reduced from the smoke that you can stare right at it without hurting your eyes. At the far end of the roof garden shared by all the residents of the building, white sheets on the clotheslines flap in the smoky breeze – surrender of defiance, you’re not sure.”
Else’s specificity, particularly her observations of people and places – of interactions, feelings, and memories – are gems in the story, and one of the strengths of the collection. Her stories show you don’t need to use a lot of words to convey something beautiful or poignant. There is a strong personal undertone to the book, like we’re getting a strong sense of Else not just as a writer but as a person.
Each story explores elements of humanity and what it means to be alive, even when the world is ending – ie. even during times of disaster, we can still feel love and connection, nurture, all the while experiencing heightened levels of grief, heartache, and loss.
I also freakin’ love the cover of this book – the colours and the tone, as well as the title, make for a really beautiful addition to the bookshelf.
“His voice is tender but careful. Before the phone call to tell him what had happened, and to ask if we could come, we hadn’t spoken in a long while. My body trembles, the horror of the past few weeks seeping over the walls I’ve built inside me.”
With each story moving forward in time, we experience the haunting progression of climate degradation and the ramifications of a changing world, sometimes through the smallest of lenses. It’s a clever stylistic technique to keep the reader feeling both unprepared and alarmed as we progress through the future to alternate worlds not overly different to our own.
“The walk down to the town centre only takes ten minutes. It’s midwinter and tourism still hasn’t recovered from the pandemic years, so the place is empty. The pub is closed, but looking over the fence from the street they glimpse a view of the water through the vast beer garden.”
Else’s short story collection is an accessible read for reluctant readers, and perfect for those with only short spans of time to read. With vivid characters and engaging settings, readers will love this book. Readership skews 20+
Thank you to the publishing company for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Everything Feels Like the End of the World
Allen & Unwin Book Publishers