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Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite
Strange Stories II: The Empty Earth by Roger Mannon is a collection of two dystopian stories set in the not-too-distant future. The stories share similar themes of isolation, fight for survival, and climate change. In the first story titled "Alone," a team of scholars trying to study the permafrost in Siberia unwittingly release a dormant ancient virus that insidiously wipes out the human population. One of the last surviving humans, William LeRoy, searches for fellow survivors as he navigates his way across America, battling isolation and loneliness. "Tipping Point" showcases the devastation caused by climate change, where amidst the dwindling human population, a lone teenager reminisces about his late father's survival training.
Filled with absorbing stories, Strange Stories II: The Empty Earth feels like a much-needed book for our times. Roger Mannon provides some insightful meta-commentary throughout his stories that is increasingly relevant as the days go by. I found the ideas and storytelling poignant and utterly captivating. The narrative seamlessly incorporates the underlying themes and issues into the stories, making them feel authentic and enhancing them without sounding preachy. I particularly enjoyed how the author draws parallels between how some parts of the population have reacted to the Covid-19 pandemic with the humans he presents in the future, adjusting to climate catastrophe. Although I enjoyed them all, "Alone" was my personal favorite as it felt more intimate. I highly recommend the collection.