Puchner’s affecting collection explores the endings of things — relationships, childhood, the illusion that one is a morally upstanding person — as well as what endures for the sympathetic characters in these nine stories. Puchner is especially good at depicting adolescent boys mystified by adulthood and adults flummoxed by children ... This is top-notch realistic fiction, sensitive to the complexities of more or less ordinary lives.
Last Day on Earth consists of nine different stories; one of which takes place in the early 1980s, another in the distant future and the rest in modern times. Both the past ('Brood X') and the futuristic stories ('Beautiful Monsters') are the first and second in the book chronologically, and neither resonate as well as the other seven ... Mr. Puchner really hits his storytelling stride when dealing with realism and revving it up with rash decision-making ... Last Day on Earth carries a wealthy amount of content that is thought-provoking and self-reflecting. You’ll be able to relate to a lot of it, and there will be a lot of times when you wish you hadn’t, but those types of feelings, negative or positive, make the reader consider how precious life truly can be.
[Puchner] is an old-fashioned major-scale composer, but, in the hands of a skilled artist, even a familiar tune can seem fresh and surprising ... two stories tiptoe to the edge of sci-fi, but, even here, Puchner's achievement is not the invention of unique new worlds but a unique take on themes of family and belonging.
The collection sometimes suffers from repetition of plots: an odd number of the stories, for example, hinge on crises that result when a caregiver puts a young child in radical danger. But they’re intriguingly varied in terms of characters and setting and particularly in tone. Puchner can be wildly funny...Or oddly touching ... Without fundamentally challenging the traditional short story structure, the author finds a way to bend it to suit a skewed and fantastic vision of the world.