Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack
After the Rain was in an advanced stage of production at the time of the 2011 Queensland floods; a version of the anthology was published electronically to raise funds for the resulting appeal. It is important to note that the electronic version was not exactly the same as the hard copy reviewed here – for example, there were fewer stories, and some stories were not in exactly the same form as they appear here. Therefore, even if you have the electronic version, you may wish to consider also purchasing the hard copy.
A difficulty that often occurs with anthologies is the theme. Too tightly interpreted, a theme can result in a bunch of exceptionally similar stories which quickly become boring; too loosely interpreted and you can start to wonder what these stories are doing in the vicinity of each other. This first (and often largest) pitfall is one that Wessely and her authors have avoided. The stories here have links to the theme of varying intensity, some closely, some less obviously; this variety helps to produce an anthology of interesting and diverse stories that nevertheless make sense together. Only one story seems to lack much connection to the theme – “Heaven”, by Jo Langdon. Although not a bad story, it was the one that stood out to me as seeming least connected to the theme. I finished it wondering how it had found its way into this anthology as there was, for me, no obvious connection to the theme.
That is not to say that all the authors have interpreted the theme literally. In “Europe After the Rain” Lee Battersby is looking at the aftermath of a rain of bombs, not water. It’s an unusual story, using a familiar setting to good effect and bringing something new to the well used theme of the Nazi persecution of Jews. It’s both hopeful and depressing, and thoroughly engrossing.
I had wondered, when picking up the anthology for the first time, whether I would find myself faced with an overtly “Australian” anthology of stories about drought, deserts, and rain. This is another pitfall Wessely and her authors have avoided. Those motifs do occur in a number of the stories, sometimes as background and sometimes more overtly. While there is a definite Australian tone to the way some of the motifs are handled, the settings of most stories are handled in such a way that they’re not necessarily Australian – there is a sense that they could occur anywhere, including in another world.
“Visitors” is one of the stories explicitly set in Australia. Peter M Ball’s tale of monsters that are visible only to some, rampaging through Surfers Paradise, is also one of the more memorable stories, with an original idea, strong emotion, and a dash of humor as well. Dave Luckett’s tale of a group of space travellers stranded on a strange planet (“Powerplant”) and “Eschaton and Coda” from Dirk Flinthart also both included veins of humor that served the anthology well for balance, as well as making the individual stories enjoyable and memorable.
“Wet Work” by Jason Nahrung is a fast moving adventure with a strong science fictional edge which contrasts well with the more fantastical tone of most of the other stories. Generally I’m not a great fan of crime type stories in the short format, as I feel it lacks space for a really satisfying plot, but Nahrung has done a particularly good job of tailoring his plot to the length while still giving it some depth.
“The Shadow on the City of My Sky” was a haunting and original story of trying to avoid death, and one of the stories that will stay with me for some time. “When the Bone Men Come” is another story that fell on the eerie side; Peter Cooper crafts a spooky scary but also hopeful story about supernatural beings who terrify travellers.
“After the Rain” is a good anthology with a lot of variety. Overall I’d say the tone is fairly serious – not necessarily dark – but there are also stories that deliberately lean towards the lighter side. I enjoyed most of the stories here and felt the volume had a higher proportion of stories I enjoyed versus those I didn’t than most anthologies. Most readers should find a lot to enjoy here, and I’d recommend this volume to a wide audience.