It's a bit ridiculous to think that the world ends on December 21st. The simple idea of precognition is rooted in a lot of bad preconceptions, but then again, that seems to be the norm surrounding the whole 'Mayan Calendar' thing that's been so prevalent lately. That being said, Post-Apocalyptic fiction is a story type that reveals much about a culture's ability to cope with live when everything they know going away. Here's 10 books (and a graphic novel series) that explore the idea of the end of times:
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
The Road is a bleak novel, one that distills many ideas about post-apocalyptic futures into some of its most basic components: survival. McCarthy tells the story of an unnamed father and son who have survived a cataclysmic event that has brought down civilization. Along the way, they have to survive cannibalistic gangs, a lack of supplies, and the inherent danger that now exists in a world without rules.
Shipbreaker / The Drowned Cities, Paolo Bacigalupi
Paolo Bacigalupi’s two YA novels take place in a post-oil world, where society has largely collapsed. In the first novel, a boy named Nailer works to break apart beached ships, stripping them for everything that they’re worth. When he discovers a shipwreck, he has to choose between saving its wealthy survivor, or pillaging the ship for all that it’s worth. In the follow up novel, The Drowned Cities, Bacigalupi turns his attention to extremism and child soldiers, as militant bands struggle for control over the remnants of Washington DC. Bacigalupi weaves together speculative storylines with highly relevant political ideas, with the resulting text a frighteningly plausible future for all of us.
Wastelands, edited by John Joseph Adams
Editor John Joseph Adams throws a political angle into the Post-Apocalyptic ring with his superior anthology, Wastelands. Taken with a companion anthology, Brave New Worlds (Dystopian fiction), Adams has assembled stories that examine a world without government or society, where people are truly on their own. There’s an impressive table of contents here. Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Paolo Bacigalupi, George R.R. Martin, Gene Wolf, Nancy Kress, Octavia Butler and others pen the stories here, and it’s an impressive range and scope that’s been assembled. Stay tuned in the near future for Wastelands 2.
A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter Miller Jr.
One of the most enduring Post-Apocalyptic novels, A Canticle for Leibowitz was Walter Miller’s only novel published during his lifetime. Civilization has fallen after a nuclear war. The novel follows the catholic sect, the Albertian Order of St. Leibowitz, the Engineer, as they attempt to preserve the sacred documents left behind in an ancient fallout shelter. The papers? A shopping list. The novel seeks to examine the conflict between scientific thought and religious belief as humanity rebuilds itself over thousands of years.
The Stand, Stephen King
One of Stephen King’s best known works, The Stand is a monumental work of fiction. The world is devastated by a man-made superflu that sweeps the globe, killing off almost the entire human population. Society breaks down completely in the wake of the pandemic, and King sets up the book as an ultimate good vs. evil conflict amongst two camps of the remaining survivors, one which seeks to rebuild a democratic society, and the other, which is characterized by a brutal ruler known as Randall Flagg.
Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank
Written in 1959, Alas, Babylon was written at the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, when nuclear destruction appeared imminent. A single town in Florida is spared as nuclear war utterly destroys much of humanity, leaving the remaining survivors to band together and face their common, unknown future. Pat Frank’s novels was one of the first to examine the ramifications of the arms race, an early example of a novel that places humanity’s fate in its own hands. Technology, long seen as a savior of humanity in science fiction, was seen as a tool to be misused the hands of the people.
Soft Apocalypse, Will McIntosh
Will McIntosh’s debut novel started with a simple premise: a lonely guy tries to find a date. The problem is that society is in a collapse. Beginning with a short story by the same name, this book is unique in that it depicts an apocalyptic event that takes years. Following a small, loose group of friends and acquaintances over roughly a ten year period, McIntosh teases out the interpersonal drama as society continues to collapse and as they fight to continue forward, all while depicting a new, radically different society that rises up to replace the one that has withered away and died.
World Without Us, Alan Weisman
This book isn’t quite fictional. What happens when people suddenly … vanish? Weisman’s non-fiction book about human infrastructure doesn’t dwell on how people vanish, just that they do, and once we’re all gone, what happens to all of our stuff? The World Without Us is an eye opening look at just how much of an impact we have on the planet, and represents a fantastic primer for anyone who’s looking to write a post-apocalyptic novel. Our buildings will crumble, and Weisman takes us out days, weeks, years, decades, drawing upon places around the world where we actually have left: such as Chernobyl and Cyprus.
Boneshaker, Cherie Priest
The end of society doesn’t necessarily have to happen in our future. Cherie Priest’s opening novel in her Clockwork Century steampunk series takes inspiration from the past, in a Civil War run far longer than the four years than it really did. With all the trappings of the genre, Priest tells the story of an abandoned and walled up Seattle following a devastating accident that unleashed a poison that turns its victims into zombies (Rotters), and leaving the remaining city inhabitants to cope with a vastly new world where the very air can kill you.
Y: The Last Man, Brian K. Vaughn
A celebrated graphic novel, Y: The Last Man takes on a new element of a post-apocalyptic society when a single man survives a global disease that leaves women as the only survivors of the event. Society plunges into chaos in the subsequent shock, and efforts to rebuild in a new, matriarchal society ensue. Vaughn’s comic examines gender roles and rebuilding in the face of almost certain extinction.