Humans have worried about the end of the world ever since we made up the word “world,” and in the past twenty years or so, we’ve been really worried about it, based on how many post-apocalyptic books we’ve written. We’re stressed about war, viruses, natural global disasters, genetically modified humans, multiple flavors of zombies, computers run amok, you name it.
This list focuses on books published in the 21st century, with a number of exceptions because those books were amazing and I felt like it.
I’m not usually a big fan of post-apocalyptic stories, but Station Eleven is a great story and exceptionally well-written. Continue reading
Roadside Picnic is short, bleak, and fantastic. It has a typical Russian life-is-a-meaningless-struggle-against-absurdity vibe, but there’s enough going on to make it an interesting read.
The Girl With All the Gifts is a wonderful book, which is odd praise for a story about zombies. But it’s surprisingly thoughtful, and at times, even tender, all while managing to be a fast-paced thriller. Every day I looked forward to reading it.
In a post-apocalyptic England, Melanie, along with other children, is imprisoned in a windowless bunker. They are all strapped down and muzzled whenever they leave their cells. No adult is allowed to touch them under any circumstances. Given who these children are, these are reasonable precautions. Then the installation is attacked, and Melanie is freed along with several adults, some who want her alive, some who want her dead, and others who want her dissected.
Recommendation: Buy it. This is fun, original writing with solid characters and an intense, powerful ride.
Riddley Walker is a unique, fascinating book. It takes places a few thousand years after a nuclear Armageddon in England when a young boy comes across a plan to recreate a weapon from the ancient world.
Despite the title, this isn’t about 9/11. The three books in this collection were written in the sixties. They don’t feel like sixties books, though—these could easily have been written today.
The only humans left on Earth are on a single island, in a single city. There’s another city on the mainland, but a strange radiation barrier appears, dousing that city in radiation and locking the people on the island off from the rest of the planet.
There’s an enemy that may or may not exist beyond the barrier. An escaped prisoner finds himself in the middle of the radiation, but perfectly healthy. He meets Neanderthals and mind-reading giants as he tries to get home. Things get much weirder.
There’s an enjoyable strangeness to these three books. They’re a great combination of advanced technology, unintended consequences, and good old political intrigue.
While some of the dialogue was unrealistic, the stories are interesting, well-crafted, and smart as hell.
Recommendation: Get it at the library. It’s a damn good read, but not necessary for a shelf.
In The Drowned World, the sun’s become too hot (130°F on a good day), and the cities of the world are submerged. Humanity is now collected down in Antartica or above the Arctic circle.
(This was written in 1962, so way before the current climate change troubles.)
We’re in a Post-apocalyptic Golden Age. Not even during the Cold War were science fiction books about the apocalypse and life afterward so popular.
Here’s a chart of the top Post-apocalyptic science fiction books, and when they were published.