APOCALYPSE…now, in a minute.

In an earlier post regarding my Halloween reading list for October, I mulled over the idea of having an apocalyptic reading list for December.

Problem is, I’ve already read some of the books I had wanted to save until December; I couldn’t help myself, okay?!

Despite having a massive to-be-read pile, every time I buy/download something new and irresistibly readable, I completely forget about my stack of poor, neglected tomes, desperate to be read. Being a book-lover has its fickle moments. It’s a work in progress though (isn’t it always!) and I HAVE been working my way through it, despite the occasional distraction…

So rather than rehash old territory in December, here’s my list of favourite post/apocalyptic reads:

The Stand by Stephen King (1978)

Goes without saying, really. A super flu has decimated America and a rag-tag band of survivors are drawn inexplicably towards one another in order to establish a new society through the subliminal influence of an elderly woman, Mother Abigail.  What are her motives? Who is the Walkin’ Dude? All-too-human character flaws and the practicalities of rebuilding society in the many faces of adversity are explored in this clever, gripping and entertaining novel by my favourite author, Stephen King.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (2003) 

In the wake of the collapse of a civilisation, Snowman (formerly known as Jimmy), is, to his knowledge, the last remaining ‘true’ human after a pandemic wipes out the human race, save for a more benevolent, environmentally-friendly population of genetically-modified people known as the ‘Crakers’. Told through a series of flashbacks, we see that society was dominated by bioengineering multi-nationals. Jimmy’s best friend, and genius scientist, Crake, aimed to create a new society whose inhabitants would live harmoniously with one another.  The destruction of the human race, Jimmy’s complicated relationship with life in general, a love triangle between the friends and Oryx, a former child prostitute, and a motley crew of spliced animals makes for intense and thoughtful reading.

I am Legend by Richard Matheson (1954)

After a global pandemic has reduced the world’s population into vampire-like creatures, Robert Neville is seemingly the last unaffected man on the planet. By day he scavenges what he can from the empty streets of Los Angeles and by night, he drinks and  dwells too much about the life he used to have. The vampires themselves lay dormant during the day, but by night, they surround Neville’s house, taunting him with their cat-calls and their demands for him to give himself up. Unlike the film of the same name with Will Smith, the vampires have not lost all remnants of their humanity; they can talk, mobilise and look decidedly ‘human’, except for their ultra pale skin. Fighting through his depression and loneliness, Neville starts researching the scientific cause of the pandemic and vampire characteristics; his encounter with a seemingly unaffected woman called Ruth then casts a shadow over his theories…

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2006)

If you like your post apocalyptic fiction bleak, then look no further. An unnamed father and son make their way across a devastated United States in search of the coast in order to survive the winter. The landscape has been blasted by an unknown environmental cataclysm; animal and plant life is non-existent. Some of the remaining human population have resorted to cannibalism and the threat of death looms weighs heavily on the pair who have only a gun with two rounds to protect themselves; one for the man, and one for the boy, should worse come to worse.

The book is so bleak and depressing yet the reader finds themselves considering what they themselves would do in the aftermath of the collapse of civilisation. The overwhelming impression is that most people would do anything to stay alive and that is gruesomely illustrated in The Road.

The Drowned World by J.G Ballard (1962) 

Solar radiation has melted the polar ice caps and Europe and America are completely submerged in boiling tropical lagoons, inhabited with all manner of reptiles whose own evolution has been accelerated by the soaring temperatures. Scientist Robert Kerans, his colleagues and an assortment of military personnel are part of a team sent to map the flora and fauna of a London now completely submerged under water. Plagued by bad dreams, one of the soldiers, Hardman, goes mad and goes AWOL. Kerans and his associates, Beatrice Dahl and fellow scientist Bodkin are left to ponder their isolated existence on the lagoon until the arrival of pirates shakes them out of their reverie and forces some existential dilemma.

Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list but just a few of my own personal favourites. Please feel free to suggestion any further reads in the comments section!


3 thoughts on “APOCALYPSE…now, in a minute.

  1. David Jones

    This is a fine list and I share your admiration for these authors. I know people who praise “Empire of the Sun” to the skies but refuse to acknowledge the power of Ballard’s dystopian fiction purely out of misguided literary snobbery. For me, Ballard’s work in this genre – particularly “The Drowned World” – ranks among the most vibrant and intelligent fiction of the 1960s. Regarding Margaret Atwood I agree that “Oryx and Crake” is an excellent piece of work but for me “Year of the Flood” is even better.

    Great post and I look forward to reading more from you.

  2. Cathy Marriott

    A very timely list, as the Mayan calendar tells us it’s all coming to an end in December. My favourite of these is “I Am Legend”, despite Hollywood’s mangling of the story. Great blog Kat.

  3. booksandting

    Thanks for your comments, both.
    David, I have just started reading ‘Year of the Flood’ so I let you know my verdict when I get back from Frankfurt!
    Cathy, first time I watched the film I actually quite enjoyed it, except for the naff ending, but after reading the real thing, I am quite disappointed with how the vampires are portrayed and how poor an adaptation it really was.


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