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Figgy O'Connell

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The End of the End of Everything

The End of the End of Everything - Dale Bailey, Victo Ngai The Ruin is coming, and you can wait and let it take you, let it turn you to ash.
Or you can go out with a bang, something for people to remember in the last days before their own ruin. Something that will eventually be remembered by no one because there will be no one around to remember it.

Art for art’s sake.

My rating of this book is in two parts; 2 stars for the first half, 4 stars for the second half.

The opening paragraph was far too wordy for a short story(in my opinion). It wasn’t snappy, it didn’t draw the reader in, and it tried to give a whole lot of information that I found myself having to scroll back to early in the story, trying to remember who was who, and married to whom.

It seemed like it let its literary ambitions get in the way of telling a good story.

The last time Ben and Lois Devine saw Veronica Glass, the noted mutilation artist, was at a suicide party in Cerulean Cliffs, an artist’s colony far beyond their means. That they happened to be there at all was a simple matter of chance. Stan Miles, for whom Ben had twice served as best man, had invited them to his beach house to see things through with his new wife, MacKenzie, and her nine-year-old daughter Cecilia. Though the Devines had no great enthusiasm for the new wife—Stan had traded up, was how Lois put it—they still loved Stan and had resolved to put the best face on the thing. Besides, the prospect of watching ruin engulf the world among such glittering company was, for Ben at least, irresistible. He made his living on the college circuit as a poet, albeit a minor one, so when Stan said they would fit right in, his statement was not entirely without truth.

I was struggling to make myself continue to read, and the only things that kept me going were that it was only 38 pages long, and the premise was really cool and creepy.

But at about halfway through the story, something happened.

I wasn’t finding the writing as horribly wordy anymore, which could be that it wasn’t as wordy, or just that I had managed to get used to it. I feel like it might be a little bit of both. I was getting more used to it and, having done the infodump in the first part of the story, the author was able to actually get on with the party.

I feel like this might have been a much snappier story if it started at the party where Ben met Veronica Glass for the first time, and the other information had been revealed as the story went on. This would have been just as successful at leaving the reader uncertain as to what was going on.

I do understand that this is supposed to be a study of the way people might handle a big, unknown “thing” coming to erase them from existence, but I felt like a lot more of this was shown in the second half of the story, and in the last definitive scene for sure, than in the first half of the story.

I would have also liked to know more about the Ruin. There’s talk about the few stars left in the sky when Ben is pointing out constellations to Cecy, but how does this work in the grand scheme of things? Does the Ruin move with the rotation of the Earth? If so, why has the sun not blinked out of existence yet, why do they get mornings, afternoons, nights, but stars are disappearing?

Once again, I understand that this is not something we get to know, because Ben does not know, but there are inconsistencies with how this Ruin works, and it would be possible to give us more information indirectly and without infodumping just in making sure the Ruin sticks to its own laws.

There were a lot of scenes in the book that I didn’t really count as scenes because they were told to us in such a way to make them blur together, with nothing in particular happening, with the reader not getting caught up in the here and now of the story, but watching it happen more passively:

As ruin spread, Cerulean Cliffs retreated. On the second night, Ben stood on the verandah and counted lights like a strand of Christmas bulbs strung along the coastline; in the days that followed they began to wink out. One afternoon, he and Stan hiked inland to the edge of the destruction: half a mile down the gravel driveway, and two more miles after that, along the narrow two-lane state road until it intersected with the expressway.

The second last ACTUAL scene was what made me upgrade the last half of the story to 4 stars from 3. It was disturbing, it was cringe worthy, and it showed just how twisted and desperate people can get when they know the end is coming and there’s nothing they can do about it.

But MAN did it take a long time to get to that scene.

I enjoyed the story. I think.

And I’m definitely curious enough to check out other works by this author, but I’m glad to be done with the wordiness and passive scenes of this particular story.

The Ruin was a really interesting concept. Interesting, and terrifying. A disaster that not only cannot be stopped, but cannot be explained.

The End of the End of Everything was one of those stark, sad tales which you know is not going to have a happy ending. Eventually you resign yourself to the fact that the characters might grow and do things with their last days, but that those will, without a doubt, BE their last days.

But happiness has got to relative, right? Otherwise we'll likely fall into a pit of despair and do crazy things. Sometimes it's not about what we leave behind, but what we do with the time we have.

Art for art's sake.

You can read this story for free, here: http://www.tor.com/stories/2014/04/the-end-of-the-end-of-everything-dale-bailey