Saturday, August 19, 2017

11 Best Post-Apocalyptic Novels

Post-apocalyptic fiction has become increasingly popular recently, especially in the horror and action genres. For some reason, the idea of civilization collapsing and people struggling to survive the aftermath appeals to us. Maybe it's our savage nature or a sense that life has become too easy, but we like to imagine the world that might come after we're gone. Here are the eleven best novels set after a potential world-ending event.

11. The Postman by David Brin

In a future America that's collapsed into anarchy, a drifter stumbles across a letter carrier uniform of the United States Postal Service and, with empty promises of aid from the "Restored United States of America", gives hope to an Oregon threatened by warlords. The original novellas were nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novella. The completed novel won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, both for 1986. It was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel and Nebula Award for Best Novel for 1986.

10. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

Set in a Catholic monastery in the desert of the Southwestern United States after a devastating nuclear war, Canticle is a huge scope of a novel, spanning thousands of years as civilization rebuilds itself. The book follows one man Isaac Leibowitz who starts by saving books from destruction, and leads to a monastic Order of Leibowitz who take up the mission of preserving the surviving remnants of man's scientific knowledge until the day the outside world is again ready for it. It's considered a classic of literature, one of the first science fiction novels to be seriously reviewed and studied by literary critics.

9. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

The novel is actually based on a satirical book written earlier by Brooks called The Zombie Survival Guide. Based on the background of the guide and inspired by an oral history of World War II, Brooks made a collection of individual accounts narrated by an agent of the United Nations Postwar Commission, following the devastating global conflict against the zombie plague. Other passages record a decade-long desperate struggle, as experienced by people of various nationalities. The personal accounts also describe the resulting social, political, religious, and environmental changes.

8. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

When a mysterious green meteor shower caused everyone who looked at it to go blind, the majority of humanity is left helpless. As the world struggles to survive, they are no match for the triffids, a carnivorous species of plant capable of moving on its own that begins hunting the survivors. This book is a classic and inspired many other post-apocalyptic stories like the movie 28 Days Later.

7. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

This book is more of a novella, but it's still worth including. It picks up with the life of Robert Neville, who believes himself to be the sole human survivor of a devastating plague, but he's not alone. Other humans, including his neighbor, have been turned into vampire-like creatures that come every night to try to kill him. Neville has turned his house into a fortress and spends the night barricaded and trying to resist the taunting of the "vampires." During the day, he goes out to hunt the vampires as they sleep, and try to find a cure for the plague. It's pretty much the model for every story about survivors barricaded against rampaging monsters.

6. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Set in a near-future New England, the novel is about a totalitarian Christian movement that has overthrown the United States government and set up a brutal theocracy. The new Republic of Gilead is particularly harsh on women who are forbidden to read or travel freely. Because of widespread sterility, fertile women are forced to become Handmaids (concubines) for powerful men, including the main character Offred. As she lives in the new world, she struggles against the restrictions and tries to find an escape. The Handmaid's Tale won the 1985 Governor General's Award and the first Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987; it was also nominated for the 1986 Nebula Award, the 1986 Booker Prize, and the 1987 Prometheus Award.

5. The Passage by Justin Cronin

This book is the first of a trilogy starting in a near future and covering the next 90 years. It begins with a government project to develop a new immunity-boosting drug based on a virus carried by an unnamed species of bat in South America. The test subjects escape and eventually unleash a mutated virus that transforms the world. The novel begins in 2016 and spans more than ninety years, as colonies of humans attempt to live in a world filled with superhuman creatures who are continually on the hunt for fresh blood.

4. The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard

Set in the year 2145 in a post-apocalyptic London, rising sea levels have flooded the city and turned it into a tropical lagoon. A scientific survey unit sent to map the flora and fauna in the area causes the survivors' minds to regress mentally. When part of the team turns tribal, the remaining team struggles to keep civilized. It's a haunting story of how our minds can shape our reality.

3. Logan's Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson

Published in 1967, this depicts a dystopic ageist future society in which both population and the consumption of resources are maintained in equilibrium by requiring the death of everyone reaching the age of 21. The story follows the actions of Logan, a Sandman charged with enforcing the rule, as he tracks down and kills citizens who "run" from society's lethal demand—only to end up "running" himself.

2. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

This is a graphic novel about a society made up almost entirely of women. The idea of a world where men die off leaving only women is usually pretty sleazy, but Y: The Last Man was a more realistic and even feminist story. When a mysterious event kills off all the males except for two, women discover centuries of exclusion have left them out of all critical aspects of society. Governments, military, infrastructure and even the arts are wiped out in one blow. As the women struggle to rebuild, the last male human survivor tries to find his true love. The story is both personal with great characters and epic in scope as it deals with global competition and war.

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road is set in a near future where an unexplained event has covered the world in ash and humans are the only living things left. A father and son struggle across the blighted landscape, trying to reach safety while avoiding and defending themselves from gangs of cannibals. The book isn't some Mad Max-type of adventure, though, by a beautifully written tragedy about the power of love and family. The novel was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction in 2006.

Do you have any other suggestions? Which ones have you read? Let me know in the comments!

"My name is Timothy McGill, and I'm a time travel addict..." Time Junkie, now available in paperback and ebook formats!

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