Review: Six Months, Three Days, Five Others

Charlie Jane Anders’ short story collection Six Months, Three Days, Five Others is a book full of endings. Its six stories, which are all variously SFFnal, centre in different ways on the concept of finality: there are apocalypses, deaths, people who know the future; the last story, “Clover”, is set in the aftermath of Anders’ novel All the Birds in the Sky, and tells us what happens to Patricia’s cat.

Not coincidentally, these are all stories which deflate or frustrate our expectations, and often those of their characters. In the second story, “As Good as New”, a woman who survived the apocalypse spends her days in a bunker watching The Facts of Life and meets a genie called Richard who was once a theatre critic; the effect is slightly discombobulating, offbeat, a little bit funny without being inconsequential. The third story, “Intestate”, ends unresolved and ambiguous.

The point is, I think, a sort of anti-teleology: nothing is ever written in stone; nothing is inevitable or insurmountable. Which is something to keep in mind, as the world hurtles towards environmental catastrophe and/or the death of democracy. These are stories for unstable times: stories which open a window of hope on a world which is wider and more wonderful than we’re able to remember sometimes.

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